bY NIHAL DE ALWIS
(former Intelligence Officer)
Not only serving, but retired senior police officers and others, I am certain, will be glad if the new, energetic and enthusiastic Minister, Dr Sarath Weerasekera (Rtd. Rear Admiral SLN), will engage himself in providing and improving facilities and basic requirements of the police.
Getting the best out of a team obviously needs provision of basic needs and facilities before assigning it with the task of controlling, preventing and detecting crime and corruption. The Police can consider itself fortunate that a service officer with a clean record is planning to reorganize the department; something that is long overdue and has been neglected.
I suggest the minister selects a team of advisers with a clean background and is knowledgeable from the Retired Senior Police Officers’ Association ( RSPOA) and the Inspectors Association to ensure he is on the correct track as he may not be aware of the Departmental Orders and laws, like the Police Ordinance etc., which empower and guide the police.
Past IGP’s have committed the glaring error of not adhering to some guidelines provided in the Departmental Orders but opting to, satisfy their own aspirations with political patronage. As a result, Sub-Inspectors completing eight years unblemished service have failed to make the rank of Inspector before retirement suffering pension implications affecting whole families. Only an Efficiency Bar, and not cadre approval from the ministry, is needed to effect such promotions after eight years of unblemished service. Some of the officers who have suffered as a result have as many as 35 years dedicated police service. Going to court has been the only option available to them as their appeals had fallen on deaf ears.
Obviously, the department should factor these promotion obligations in calculating its budgetary requirements in the prior year. But this has not been done. I am aware that civilian staff do the annual budgets without direction by senior officers and lack of planning is evident with the votes blindly presented to the ministry. Budgets must be prepared by a qualified team competent to do that job in a department, like the Police. This is one of the reasons, the Police has always lagged behind the forces who give top priority to subjects like these without which no organization can develop.
The minister should be adequately advised by the department, which sadly lacks courage and competence, to urge any government to provide basic requirements. Unfortunately, the department never had courageous officers with integrity to pursue its needs after the late Mr. LDC Herath. I would like to list the following requirements for the consideration of the minister:
(1) The last government allocated land opposite the Police Hospital for its expansion, but unfortunately the SLAF appears to have hijacked this property! What are senior police officers doing? Why are they dumb? The Police Hospital looks like a rural hospital compared to the Army Hospital which looks like a five star hotel. It should be decentralized with clinics in at least every province so that patients in places like Kandy don’t have to come to Colombo for their medicine. There is unconfirmed information that Rs. 20 billion from the Police Reward Fund had been loaned by a former IGP to the army to develop its hospital. Only a special audit, preferably from the Auditor General’s Department, will reveal the truth.
(2) POLICE ACADEMY
The building granted for a Police Academy by the late Mrs Sirimavo Dias Bandaranaike was taken over by the Army as the then IGP had no courage to oppose it. (Or did he encourage it?) Why can’t the Police department create, a proper Academy providing higher training, diplomas, refresher courses and intelligence and investigation training. It could possibly be affiliated to British institutions like Scotland Yard, Metropolitan Police College etc. It could even perhaps offer degrees in law etc to upgrade standards.
(3) COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY
Stationary, pens and files are not adequately provided to Police stations at present.
Even in this day and age most Police Stations have no duplicating, fax or photocopying machines and most of the staff is not trained to use a computer. I have had personal experience of being told ” No half sheets, Sir, or the typist is not available, please come tomorrow,” when seeking a certified copy of a document. If there is a photocopying machine, stations could conveniently handle such work.
Every Police station is understaffed. Eg. If one visits Mirihana or Cinnamon Gardens Police Station they will tell you “Sir, we have no staff to send on an investigation now as most are on special or guard duties.” Regular police officer trained to prevent , detect and investigate crime are used for ancillary duties. Why can’t the department which scrapped the Reserve Police re- create it and use it for such duties? The department was ruined by an allegedly corrupt and politically biased IGP who absorbed the Reserve Police Into the permanent cadre, depriving many deserving permanent officers of their promotions.
(3) RECRUITMENT & TRAINING
Recruitment of graduates as Probationary ASPs has hurt the prospects of lower ranks seeking promotion to Gazetted rank. In the past there were Constables who rose to the rank of ASP and SP, but today even a Sub Inspector obtaining due promotion is rare. If the department is determined to recruit graduates, they could be recruited as Inspectors and made to gather five years experience managing police stations , investigating and court work etc. After five years, they could be eligible to go before a Promotion Board and seek promotion as an ASP. Today, few directly recruited ASP’s can conduct a case in courts. They are not competent to advise and guide subordinates as they lack experience.
Malaysia has adopted this system of recruiting graduate Inspectors to ensure that they, as ASPs, will know the workings of a Police Stations and will be better able to supervise Police Stations and guide and direct staff with knowledge and expertise. About 30 – 40 years ago, the standard of graduate ASP recruits was much higher than now and they did contribute much to the service.
Training systems must be revised to suit today’s needs with policemen taught to to respect the public and interact harmoniously with people without discriminating between rich and poor, demonstrating that they are Public Servants. They must be trained in all three languages and should be able to record complaints in the language in which they are made.
In the past Vigilance Squads helped the police to solve crime, detect Illicit liquor and apprehend suspects. The OIC or his deputy visited retired public servants whose names and addresses were posted on wall files at police stations to get their support for effective policing.
All Officers should be trained in disaster management, fire fighting, life saving, first aid, and safety measures as stipulated by the Safety Division of the Labour Department. The deterioration of discipline is very evident and I have seen Sub-Inspectors sharing a cigarette with constables!
(4) RE-STRUCTURING POLICE DIVISIONS AND DISTRICTS
(a)Since there are over 57 DIGs. the police department should re-demarcate divisions and districts to ensure that these officers are made use of and don’t merely warm their seats. They must be stationed in the respective Ranges and not in Colombo. At present the DIGs are supposed to visit their Ranges only once a year. This must be changed and they should be required to visit at least twice a week, excluding surprise night visits. They should get more involved in the welfare of staff and be accessible to the public daily obviating the need for people to seek political influence to address their grievances. The Police cadre should be increased if the public is to get a better service with an increase in the number of Police stations. Lack of staff, along with shortage of vehicles, is the main reason for the delay in conducting investigations.
(a)Transport systems are very poor with vehicles from the stations, except for a few, having to be brought to Colombo for attention. Every province should be provided facilities for better maintenance of police vehicles as there is tendency of some stations harassing garages to do free repairs leaving room for corruption.
(b) The Police department should adopt a scheme of insuring vehicles, rather than the Department paying costs in case the driver is at fault. This should be thought of as in according to the law non governmental vehicles cannot run on the ,road without a license. Hence it is illegal, for the Police department which prosecutes others to run their vehicles without a licenses.
(5)SALARIES & WELFARE
The Police department is the lowest paying among all the services though policemen work continuously with no overtime. The Welfare Division is incompetent and far behind those in the other forces. For example, policemen assigned for duties at various points are dropped at these places but never provided return transport. They work for several hours without drinking water or toilet facilities. This seems to be nobody’s business. Why can’t mobiles toilets and drinking water be provided? I do not think the Police department realizes the importance of these facilities. The problem is quite evident especially at check points etc on the Nawala – Narahenpita Rd.
Insurance schemes for officers must be provided in terms of risk etc. Posthumous promotions are of little use to grieving families. Over 650 policemen were massacred by LTTE terrorists (when they had surrendered on the orders of a spineless IGP). The main suspect is still openly in politics but no one cares. Sadly no governments has done the needful for compensating the families of these policemen. A team comprising Of Rtd Senior DIG A. Selvaratnam and Retd. SSP Tassy Seneviratna along with several senior police officers compiled a report with data from the affected families. This was presented it to the then IGP but nothing happened; nor have succeeding IGPs done anything about it. This is the state of the Sri Lanka Police! What can you expect from a Service which celebrated 153 years seeing the IGP remanded!
POLICE ARCHIVES/ MUSEUM
A Police Archives and Museum should be given priority for the public to know what the Police had achieved & sacrificed by way of lives lost and duty done protecting the people; and the excellent investigations conducted in solving serious crimes of various sorts.
Retired police officers, especially, are eagerly and impatiently waiting to assist the new minister and his team in reorganizing the Police Department and improving its service to the Public whilst ensuring quality of service. We certainly hope the department will be able to function without political interference and provide the public with a friendly, not-corrupt professional police.
Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Uttareethara Maha Nayaka Thera turns 88
It was in the year 1803 that there was a renaissance within the Maha Sangha (the Great Community of Buddhist Monks) in Sri Lanka thereby adding a fresh chapter to the history of the Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka. This was when the Most Venerable Welitara Sri Gnanawimala Thera, the Great Prelate received the Upasampada or the Higher Ordination in Burma, returned to Sri Lanka and established the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya. (The name of this monk is embellished with traditional appellations such as Bodhisattva Gunopetha or being imbued with the qualities of a Bodhisattva or Buddha-Aspirant, and Preacher to King and Emperor.)
Thus the Amarapura Nikaya, which began with this Most Venerable Thera, later spread itself very rapidly down five generations of the Sangha spanning the entire Island. These generations of the Sangha organized themselves into 22 Nikayas. This was with the blessings of each of the Mahanayakas. They also preserved the identity of each such Nikaya.
In Sri Lanka, Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha was formed in 1952 with the concurrence of 15 of these subsidiary Nikayas. Presidents of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha have been;
1. the Most Venerable Prelate Beruwela Siri Nivasa Thera
2. the Most Venerable Mapalane Pannalankara Maha Nayaka,
3. the Most Venerable Uddammita Dhammarakhita Maha Nayaka,
4. the Most Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithri Maha Nayaka
5. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Maha Nayaka.
In the year 1962 all 22 Sub-Nikayas came together to form a more organized and properly constituted Sri Lanka Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabha. It was the Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Balangoda Ananda Maithri Thera who was installed as President and has been succeeded by;
1. the Most Venerable Dhammavansha Thera,
2. the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha,
3. the Most Venerable Ahungalla Wimalanandi,
4. the Most Venerable Kandegedara Sumanavansha,
5. the Most Venerable Boyagama Wimalasiri,
6. the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa and
7. the Most Venerable Dodampahala Chandrasiri.
The Most Venerable Chief Prelate Ganthune Assaji Thera is the current chair.
In terms of the Constitution approved in 1992, an Office of Supreme Prelate (Uttareethara Mahanayaka) was created, and the first to hold this office was the Most Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayaka Thera who was succeeded by Most Venerable Davuldena Gnaneesara Thera. After his demise the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera, who turns eighty-eight today assumed and continues to be the Uttareethara Mahanayaka.
He was born on 26th January 1933 and ordained as a monk with the permission of his parents, on 17th August 1948. He received his Higher Ordination on 10th July 1954 at the Udakkukhepa Seemamalakaya set up on the River named the Kalu Ganga in Kalutara.
He had his training and primary instruction in the Buddha Dhamma from his Venerable Preceptors, later entered the Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena for his education. It was at the Maha Pirivena in Maligakanda where he received his Higher Education in three languages, under the shadow and tutelage of the Most Venerable Pandita Baddegama Piyaratana Thera.
With the demise of his preceptor, Dhammavasa Thera became the Prelate of the Dharmapala-arama Viharaya in Mount Lavinia. By this time he had already become very popular by broadcasting and delivering sermons in temples and in private homes, contributing to articles disseminating the Dhamma, and articles on topical subjects through the full-moon day publication entitled “Budusarana”, then to daily newspapers, and to the Vesak Annuals published by M D Gunasena & Co., Dinamina etc.
The Thera was also engaged in social welfare activities of the area by setting up Children’s and Young Persons’ Societies within the Vihara.
With the passage of time and the demise of remarkably eloquent monks such as the Most Venerable Narada Thera, Prelate of the Vajira-aramaya, Heenatiyana Dhammaloka, Kotikawatte Saddhatissa, Pitakotte Somananda, Kalukondayawe Pannasekera and other such classic preachers, Kotugoda Dhammavasa Thera stands out as a prime orator among those who came to the limelight after the days of the erudite monks of yesteryear.
Owing to the ceaseless invitations to deliver sermons extended to our Venerable Thera he travelled to various regions of the Island, yet fulfilling all his duties pertaining to his own Nikaya and to the work of the Sangha Sabha neglecting nothing whatever. With all this he continued to participate in the discharge of the infinite services expected of all erstwhile office bearers of the Sangha Sabha.
Our respected Thera was gradually chosen to hold various posts within the Amarapura Nikaya. Some such are his appointment in 1970 as an ordained member of the Working Committee and to the Post of Honorary Prelate (Maha Nayaka); in 1981 as the Chief Ecclesiastical Sangha Nayaka; and in 1990 as the Deputy Chief (Anunayaka) of the Amarapura Nikaya. At the same time it is because of his quality of being industrious that he was elected the Secretary (Lekhakadhikari).
The Venerable Anunayaka Thera who served the Maha Sangha Sabha of the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya with great dedication, in order to ensure its unity and advancement, was in 1980 appointed its Co-Secretary (Sama Lekhakadhikari) and in 1992 as its Chief Secretary (Maha Lekhakadhikari) It is only appropriate to place on record that during this period of about fifteen years he performed a very special quality of service to the Sasana by updating the Amarapura Sangha Sabha; by setting up a Kathikavata (Ecclesiastical Edict) for the Amarapura Nikaya (whereby ‘rules governing the discipline and conduct of Buddhist monks including matters related to the settlement of disputes’ together with a Sanghadhikarana Panatha (i.e. an Ecclesiastical Act) were drafted and approved; and finally by drafting a strong, formal Constitution and obtaining approval for same.
It was on 17th December 2016 that the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Anunayaka Thera became the Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Nikaya, and that on a proposal made by none other than the Most Venerable Agga-maha-panditha Ambalangoda Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thera who, at the time, was himself the incumbent.
On 3rd October 2008 the Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera was appointed to the post of Chairman, and it was on 26th May 2017 that he was elected Uttareethara Maha Nayaka or Supreme Maha Nayaka, which is the highest position within the Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya.
He has visited many countries in Asia and Europe disseminating the Dhamma and participating in Conferences thereby earning great international fame. Meanwhile he also serves as the incumbent monk of the Sri Lanka-aramaya in Myanmar and of the Charumathie Viharaya in Nepal.
In the matters of national and religious issues in the country he expresses his views in such a calm and collected manner that he has earned the respect of the Supreme Maha Nayaka Theras of other Nikayas and politicians both in power and in the Opposition and of intellectuals.
He has been honored with the title of “Agga Maha Panditha” by the Government of Myanmar. Although other honorary awards were conferred upon him by foreign countries and foreign institutions he does not use them, entirely because of his humble disposition.
At the end of and exposition of the Dhamma (a Dharma Desana) at Temple Trees His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa (who was then the incumbent President of the country) made an offering to him of about 14 perches of land in Wellawatte. Upon this land stands today, the “Office of the Sangha Sabha of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya”, a three-storied building replete with all conceivable facilities. It is a matter of great joy to us that in honour of the Most Venerable Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nayaka Thera it was possible for us to make an offering of this building to the Buddha Sasana, on the 15th of August 2020.
We offer merit to His Excellency the President and the Honourable Prime Minister who are today attending to each and every need of our Supreme Maha Nayaka Thera in a spirit of extending infinite regard and respect to him, in appreciation of the national and religious service the Maha Thera has rendered.
Let us also gratefully place on record that the Honourable Sajit Premadasa, Leader of the Opposition, has provided an elevator as an offering to facilitate the caring for our Mahanayaka Thera.
I also wish to thank the Doctors, the Staff of the Nawaloka Hospital, Members of the Nikaya-abhivrudhi Dayaka Sabha (Organization for the Advancement of the Nikaya) and the Dayaka Sabha of the Mahanayaka’s Vihara and who are all providing medical care.
Arrangements were made by the Dayaka Sabha and the student monks to offer alms to the Sangha to mark the birthday of our Thera when he reached the age of 88, on 26th January 2021.
On 21st January 2021 at 7.00 p.m. a Bodhi Pooja was organized by the Amarapura Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha at the historic Kalutara Bodhi to invoke blessings upon our Supreme Maha Thera.
May the Supreme Maha Nayaka Agga Maha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammavasa Maha Nahimi live a life free from sickness and sorrow.
Deshamanya Ajita de Zoysa
Sri Lanka Nikaya-abhivruddi Dayaka Sabha
Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation
By Jehan Perera
Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.
Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.
Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”
Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.
The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”
It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.
International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.
In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”
As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.
The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.
Album to celebrate 30 years
Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.
However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.
All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.
Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.
Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.
Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.
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