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Oranee Jansz

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by Rajiva Wijesinha

Oranee Jansz died last month after a brave battle with cancer, one day after her 77th birthday. I knew her for just less than half her life, having first met her when I joined the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in 1992.

I had moved there mainly to look after the English courses at Affiliated University Colleges, the brainchild of Arjuna Aluwihare. But of course USJP wanted to make greater use of me, both to restructure its English courses and build up a Department, and also to revitalize teaching of English to all students through the English Language Teaching Unit.

This latter request did not go down well with the host of long serving ladies who ran the ELTU at the time, and amongst the most opposed to the intrusion of an outsider was Oranee. But fortunately, before I took any steps, I engaged in a thorough survey of the customers as it were of the ELTU, the heads of the different Faculties and Departments whose students were supposed to learn English through the ELTU.

I found almost total despair as to what they saw as the incapacity to enthuse or teach well of the different ladies, but they all thought very highly of Oranee and asked me to allocate her to their students. I realized from that that she was an exceptional person and I treated her with great respect, to which in time she responded positively. I believe we bonded when we walked up one day from the shed which housed the ELTU to the main gate of the university, and she asked me whether I believed the assurances her colleagues had given me that their programme was going well. I think she was relieved when I told her I knew there were problems.

Prof Palihawadana, a thorough gentleman as that other great gentleman J B Dissanayake described him, was acting as Vice-Chancellor at the time given the kerfuffle about the appointment of the university Librarian, Mr Dorakumbura, as Vice-Chancellor. Palihawadana was a shrewd judge of character and ability and had wanted to make Oranee the ELTU head, since the lady who had been there had resigned when told that I would be asked to take charge of their programmes. But Oranee’s colleagues, who were I think nervous of her, protested, and the former head took over again.

Instead Oranee was asked to take charge of English for the medical faculty USJP had just started. This was a salutary measure for she did a great job, using the participatory techniques she had developed, and her students blossomed. In the strange world of Sri Lankan medicine, where established universities roundly condemn the new ones and claim standards are being lowered, with the new universities that achieve respectability then joining the old brigade to condemn newer ones, USJP has the distinction of being the university that soonest gained enough respect to join the charmed circle. And while this was obviously due to the excellence of its teaching staff, I believe too that the self confidence Oranee developed, along with excellent communicative confidence in English, contributed to the speed with which USJP doctors achieved parity with their peers.

Oranee selected her own team for the medical faculty, and made short shrift of one of the nastier of her peers who fell like a vulture on the Tamils we recruited after I was put in charge of English. Even Parvathi Nagasunderam, whom I had enticed from the NIE, was driven to tears by the viciousness, claiming that USJP had been free of Tamils earlier and there was no room there for terrorists. But she had been recruited to the Languages Department and decided that she would have nothing more to do with them. This was their loss at the time, though soon enough the younger staff there looked on her as mentor and inspiration, as did the products of the English Department she presided over for many years.

Less confident was a Tamil gentleman who had in fact settled in Colombo as a refugee from Tiger violence, totally unprepared for the onslaught of the Amazons. Oranee promptly took him under her wing, and he became a loved teacher for the Medical Faculty.

That was Oranee, a woman of infinite courage and kindness, and a fantastic and inspiring teacher. She developed her own course for the Medical Faculty but deigned to make use of some of the materials I had prepared, which fortunately the other ladies teaching other students did not resist, not least because I took on the book for the AUCs that the ELTU head had prepared. This book, ‘People’ was actually quite good and, though I had to do some editing, this was much less than was needed for the second book. As to that I was delighted when, after I had revised it thoroughly, Prof Chitra Wickramasuriya of Colombo who had been Consultant to the AUC programmes before I took over remarked enthusiastically that ‘Objects’ had been transformed.

My own productions were a set of Student Workbooks which I later divided into two texts, ‘A Handbook of English Grammar’ and a reader called ‘Read, Think and Discuss’. This latter was in collaboration with Oranee for by then she and I were working together as Coordinators of the pre-University General English Language Teaching programme, the GELT which we rechristened a Training programme.

I had got involved because, on coming back to Sri Lanka in 1993 from my stay at the Rockefeller Centre in Bellagio, I met Prof A J Gunawardena on the plane and he said that they had not been able to find anyone satisfactory to take over the GELT. He knew I was acquainted with the programme, for while at the British Council I had been commissioned by the Canadians to produce readers for the course. A J suggested I call Arjuna Aluwihare and offer my services.

I did so, for it fitted in well with the AUC work, but Arjuna told me he had asked Oranee to take it over. I suggested that I could work with her, which pleased him for I think he had been wary about what the traditionalists in the ELTU would have said about Oranee, whose original degree had been in Chemistry, though she had of course qualified since in ELT through the Colombo University Master’s programme. This was a professional course unlike the one year apology for a course that Kelaniya offered at the time (since, I believe, upgraded to a reasonable one).

Oranee was not I think pleased at my involvement for she had looked forward to doing her own thing, but she soon found that I had no intention of restricting her. I was delighted at the many ideas she had for developing initiative and thinking skills, well aware then as others in her field were not of the importance of what are now described as Soft Skills. She was a great believer in group work, in setting exercises to get students to develop and defend their own ideas, and then setting guidelines for developing a productive consensus.

We got on superbly in the little office allocated to us at the UGC, along with the staff who had started the programme way back in the late eighties, Mr Saparamadu, Lilani Samaranayake, the indefatigable typist Padma, and the stolid office aide Joseph. Oranee kindly took charge of the office work, including the checking and signing of innumerable vouchers, while I travelled to monitor the centres, making it to almost all of them including Mannar Island and Tirukkovil, closing those which had few students and lazy teachers, encouraging the many who did excellent work.

I tried to get Oranee to visit the centres, but she was a good family woman and did not like to leave her husband and children. But she was wonderful at the training sessions for staff we held regularly in the auditorium, trying to ensure that traditional talk was abandoned and group work with unobtrusive but clear guidance was done. And Oranee also developed a system of getting the centres to Colombo, or rather those who came to the finals of the competition we established for dramatization of the projects we insisted all students engage in. These proved wildly successful, and the enthusiasm of the students, to look into a local problem and propound solutions for problems, was a joy to see.

When we started work Oranee was not enthusiastic about my effort to ensure accuracy, for she was then in thrall to the theories of a man called Krashen who pushed fluency and claimed insistence on accuracy inhibited that. But before long she granted that errors would get entrenched unless corrected, and became even more enthusiastic than I was about accuracy. She became a great proponent of the Grammar Handbook, while I bowed to her wonderful imagination and gave her free rein to introduce innovative exercises in the companion reader.

These were much loved by students but of course no other university wanted to use them, since they all made much of what they termed the production of materials for which of course they were paid (neither Oranee nor I took any money for what we produced). Later, when I was moving away from the university system, and realized that no one else would ensure the books were kept in print, I accepted the offer of Cambridge University Press in India to publish the two texts under their Foundation Books imprint.

Oranee was pleased that I attributed sole authorship of ‘Explorations’, as CUP entitled ‘Read, Think and Discuss’, to her, and delighted that she received royalties for the book, which had not of course happened in Sri Lanka. Indeed CUP had the books prescribed by some Indian universities, so we did well out of them, though in Sri Lanka endemic jealousy makes it impossible for students at other universities to benefit thus.

Indeed this came home to me when a member of the current UGC asked me about the GELT materials we had used, since he had been put in charge of reviving the GELT course and thought there was no need to reinvent the wheel. I sent him details, but since then I gather that the traditionalists have stepped in, and I suspect the new effort at a GELT will be as disastrous as the GELT became at the turn of the century when the UGC decided to decentralize it. Within a couple of years of that decision the UGC closed the programme on the grounds that very few students attended, which was indeed the case in urban areas run by the old universities but of course by then there was little concern about the rural students who had been the main beneficiaries. Incidentally the bonding we had developed had stood the students in good stead during the rag but that confidence was no more after GELT was abolished.

Oranee by then had enough to do for she had finally been appointed to head the ELTU at USJP. Meanwhile I had used her, as well as Paru, for the training I embarked on when I took on responsibility for the reintroduction of English medium in government schools at the end of 2001. Sadly Ranil Wickremesinghe forbade the Minister renewing my contract to coordinate this in the middle of 2002, and the programme began to collapse, as indeed Ranil’s brother told me in urging me to persuade the Prime Minister to take remedial action (which did not happen though I am not sure whether his animosity to English medium or to me was the greater reason for this stubbornness).

Fortunately Chandrika revived the programme, and by then Oranee was retired from USJP so I could get her to work at the Ministry, where she headed the lovely team I set up in 2004 and 2005. Once again I was fascinated by how much she inspired the staff I had taken on from Sabaragamuwa.

I saw less of Oranee later, after I entered the world of public affairs, but we kept in touch and when I heard she had cancer I made it a point to see her regularly. That had to cease when COVID struck, but I kept in touch on the telephone, and resumed my visits over the last couple of months. And whereas towards the end of last year she seemed to be weakening, she was much more feisty in the last few months, and was a great pleasure to talk to. As usual she did not mince her words and, having been enthusiastic last year about GELT being revived, she too thought this year that the initiative had fallen prey to the incoherence that bedevils our system, and lots of people will make lots of money reinventing wheels and producing second rate materials.

But we talked about much more, mutual friends, students whom she had nurtured, politics, fellow academics about whom she had entertaining stories. And her zest for life was exemplified too when she insisted on seeing my dog, who was generally with me for I usually saw her when travelling to my cottage. His name is Toby, but she insisted that he had to have a surname that matched his distinguished appearance, and designated him Toby Parker Bowles.

That too, that zany zest for life, along with a deep affection for all those weaker than herself, a forceful commitment to social justice, an indefatigable appetite for action, and a vivid imagination, contribute to the memory of a wonderful colleague and a dear friend.



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Features

Devolution under 13A

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by Neville Ladduwahetty

(This is an updated version of an article which first appeared in The Island on 16 March 2009. It is republished because of its relevance to the intention of the current government to implement the13th Amendment fully.

The defeat of the LTTE is not expected to bring a closure to Sri Lanka’s national question. It would, however, create the space for the evolution of a political solution, free of threat and intimidation. It would also create the space for the government to totally focus on issues, relating to resettlement, rehabilitation and development. Public opinion is that both issues need to be addressed, concurrently, if the military gains are to be consolidated.

The emphasis of the International Community has been on a political solution that addresses the concerns of all communities. While endorsing this view, India has been particular that such a solution should be based on the concept of devolution, as contained in the 13th Amendment, and, if necessary, beyond. These readings have influenced the deliberations of the All Party Repesentative Committee (APRC). Consequently, the approach of the APRC has been to evolve a new and, in their view, an improved version of the Provincial Council system, under the 13th Amendment.

After experiencing the functioning of the Provincial Council system, for two decades, consensus is that its costs outweigh the benefits. Irrespective of the explanations for its below expected performance, it would be worth the cost if it served its intended purpose of addressing the concerns of all the communities. Since Law and Order affects all members of all communities, it would be appropriate to assess whether the current provisions in the 13th Amendment would assure fairness and impartiality in its dealings with the Provincial Police Commissions.

Provincial Police Commission (PPC)

Appendix I of the Provincial Council List (List I of the Ninth Schedule of the 13th Amendment) describes the devolved powers, relating to Law and Order.

According to Clause 4, the PPC is to consist of three members: the D.I.G of the Province, a person nominated by the Public Service Commission, in consultation with the President, and a nominee of the Chief Minister of the Province.

Clause 6 states: “The I.G.P shall appoint the D.I.G. for each Province, with the concurrence of the Chief Minister of the Province. However, where there is no agreement between the Inspector General of Police and the Chief Minister, the matter will be referred to the President, who, after due consultation with the Chief Minister, shall make the appointment.”

Clause 11.1 states: “The D.I.G. shall be responsible to and under the control of the Chief Minister thereof in respect of the maintenance of public order in the Province…”.

Thus, in addition to the D.I.G. being under the control of the Chief Minister, two out of two members of the PPC would in all likelihood have political affiliations which would make them lean towards the “interests” of the Chief Minister. To expect fairness and impartiality under such provisions is to be naïve. In the real world, the tendency for the PPC, as presently constituted, would be to encourage a high degree of partiality in favour of the Chief Minister’s interests, not to mention the interests of his/her loyalists, as well. While attempts are being made to depoliticize Presidential powers, through the 17th Amendment, and Independent Police Commission, provisions in the 13th Amendment would not deter the politicization of issues relating to Law and Order. This is a serious anomaly that needs to be corrected. However, the task is a daunting one because of the inbuilt procedural labyrinth.

Amendments to the 13th Amendment

Any amendment to provisions in the 13th Amendment requires conformance to the procedures set out in Article 154G:

“Every Provincial Council may, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, make statutes applicable to the Province for which it is established, with respect to any matter set out in List 1…”

No Bill for the amendment or repeal of the provisions of this Chapter or the Ninth Schedule shall become law unless such Bill has been referred by the President, after its publication in the Gazette and before it is placed in the Order paper of Parliament, to every Provincial Council for the expression of its views thereon, within such period as may be specified in the reference, and –

where every such Council agrees to the amendment or repeal, such Bill is passed by a majority of the Members of Parliament present and voting; or

(b)where one or more Councils do not agree to the amendment

or repel such Bill is passed by the special majority required by Article 82.

According to the mentioned procedure, it is unlikely that a President would initiate action unless there is a public demand. This would mean that the public would have to organize themselves to give expression to such a demand. Assuming a President is convinced that an amendment is needed, the process involves drafting appropriate legislation, Gazetting it, and then circulating it to the Provincial Councils for comment. If even one out of the nine Councils objects, a 2/3 majority of the Parliament would be needed before it could become law.

Since no Provincial Council would agree to relinquish the advantages it possesses, under current provisions, as regards the composition of the PPC, one can be certain that any amendment in respect of Law and Order would require a “special majority”, meaning 2/3 of those present in Parliament voting for the amendment. The fact that it is near impossible to secure a 2/3 majority, under the proportionate representation scheme, is a fact that has to recognized and accepted. Furthermore, in the course of his determination, Justice Wanasundara stated: “Factually speaking, even the President has said recently that under the proportionate scheme, no political party would be able to secure anything more than a bare majority in the future” (Supreme Court case on The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, 1987, p. 347).

Thus, the reality is that the public may not succeed in securing the needed 2/3 majority to redress a provision that has the potential to seriously undermine its right to equality before the law when it comes to provincial matters. In such an eventuality, would not the sovereignty of the People be compromised? As stated by Justices L.H. de Alwis and H.A.G. de Silva, in their determinations: “Article 154G (2) therefore imposes a fetter on the Parliament in amending or repealing Chapter XVIIA or the Ninth Schedule and thereby abridges the Sovereignty of the People in the exercise of its legislative power by Parliament, in contravention of Article 3 and 4(a) of the Constitution” (Ibid.).

The determination of the Chief Justice and three other Justices, however, were: “…the legislative competence is not exclusive in character and is subordinate to that of Central Parliament which in terms of Article 154G (2) and 154G (3) can, by following the procedure set out therein, override the Provincial Councils. Article 154G conserves the sovereignty of Parliament in the legislative field…In our view 154G (2) and (3) do not limit the sovereign powers of Parliament. They only impose procedural restraints” (Ibid., p. 320).

There is no doubt whatsoever that “procedural constraints” imposed by 13A is a fetter to the unrestrained Legislative powers of Parliament that existed under Article 4 (a) and since Article 4 must be read with Article 3 these procedural constraints violate the sovereignty of the People whenever Parliament is unable to muster the 2/3 majority needed to amend any provision in 13A.

RECENTLY, SCOTLAND’S GENDER RECOGNITION REFORM BILL WAS VETOED BY THE U.K. GOVERNMENT BY USING SECTION 35 OF THE SCOTLAND ACT, THUS ENDORSING THE SUPREMACY OF THE U.K. PARLIAMENT OVER THAT OF SCOTLAND. THIS WAS POSSIBLE BECAUSE “PROCEDURAL RESTRAINTS”, SUCH AS THOSE THAT EXIST UNDER 13A, DO NOT EXIST UNDER DEVOLUTION IN the U.K.

Issues addressed thus far relate to amendments and repeals. 154G (3) relate to Bills in respect of any matter. Here, too, the President has to Gazette the Bill and circulate it to all Provincial Councils. If all Councils agree, the Bill is passed with a simple majority. If some disagree, a 2/3 majority is required for the Bill to become Law. On the other hand, if only some agree and only a simple Parliamentary majority is possible, the Bill would apply only to those Provincial Councils that agreed with the Bill. Would this not foster asymmetrical devolution? If one or more Provincial Councils call upon Parliament to make law on any matter, the passage of such a law, by a simple majority, would apply only to those Councils making the request. This too would foster asymmetrical devolution.

CONCLUSION

The Government is under pressure to implement the full provisions of the 13th Amendment. If Police powers, as required by the 13th Amendment, are devolved, the Law and Order situation in the country would be politicized far beyond what exists today.

Provisions, relating to Law and Order, as stated in Appendix 1 of List 1 of the 13th Amendment, was introduced in 1987. On the other hand, the need for an Independent Police Commission was introduced decades later in order to depoliticize Law and Order. Since Law and Order is central to Justice and overall security, the contradictions that exist between them need to be amended, along with the repeal of 154 G, because it is the only way the sovereignty of the People and the legislative powers of Parliament would be restored, prior to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment.

Such measures are justified because they are a byproduct of a political intervention by India, following the Indo-Lanka Accord. Real independence and the right of true self-determination require that all Sri Lankans are governed by Laws of their own making and not by what is imposed. Therefore, the Government has a moral obligation to its People to create the necessary conditions to protect the sovereignty of the People and the unfettered legislative powers of Parliament, encouraged by Section 35 of the U.K. Scotland Act.

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Govt. actions must be for people’s benefit

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President at the Independence Day ceremony on Saturday

By Jehan Perera

The government celebrated the 75th Anniversary of its independence from colonial rule under tight security.  President Ranil Wickremesinghe did not even deliver a speech on the occasion.  He had an excellent written speech, but chose not to deliver it for reasons not known.  The speech was circulated later. The exclusion of the general public from the parade grounds was another notable feature of the Independence Day event.  Under normal circumstances, Galle Face green where the celebration took place, is packed with people who come to enjoy the sea, the fresh air and the vast expanse of greenery.  The spectacle of a military parade and an air show provided an occasion that people would not have wished to miss if they had been given the chance to attend it.  But the government was clearly insecure and wanted to make sure it controlled the situation, which accounted for large security deployments.

The general public were kept away from the celebrations as the government feared that if they were permitted into the area some of them might protest.  Indeed, the previous night a sit down public protest (satyagraha) organised by a mostly youthful group of protestors was water cannoned and forcibly broken up.  The youth were protesting against the misallocation of resources for celebration at a time when the country’s people have little cause to celebrate.  Although there was a large presence of security forces, they stood by when a group of political thugs attacked the peaceful protestors.  When the satyagrahis resisted the attack they were chased, beaten and arrested by the security forces. The government was less concerned to win the hearts and minds of its people than to conduct its Independence Day event without disturbance.

 Ironically, the manner of the celebration, with the general public not present at the site of celebration, and security forces out in strength on the roads, was reminiscent of the days of war that the country experienced decades past.  In those days too, the Independence Day celebrations took place under tight security, with the people preferring to stay in their homes than to brave possible LTTE bombs. This throwback to the past is relevant as those years of war have contributed in no small measure to the economic collapse that has befallen the country and blighted the life of its people.  More than 70 percent of the population have reduced their food intake and 40 percent of the population have descended below the poverty line.  In recognition of the connection between ethnic conflict and economic underdevelopment, President Wickremesinghe has prioritized a political solution to the ethnic conflict without delay.

PUBLIC ANGER

The public protests against the celebration of Independence Day was not only in Colombo but also in other parts of the country, most notably in the north of the country.  The main Tamil political party as well as smaller ones also called for a boycott of the Independence Day events and did not participate in them.  University students in Jaffna declared a hartal and flew black flags.  Most of the people, however, showed no interest either way. There was no display of national flags in a spontaneous manner nor did the government make such an appeal.  It seemed as if the government was celebrating Independence Day for itself.  Gleaming new vehicles with police escorts drove in assorted governors, ministers and other dignitaries into the stalls where they would seat themselves with all the national television stations focusing on them. However, to the general public watching the celebrations on their television sets, the sight of the luxury vehicles bearing the dignitaries would have been infuriating.

 Not even a year ago, these same political leaders were hiding in the face of the protest movement that took to the streets in the aftermath of the collapse of the national economy and declaration of national bankruptcy.  The general public, many of whom had never taken part in public protests, came to the streets to protest.  They came from near and far, children with their parents, the elderly and the differently abled, to demand the exit of the government leaders who had stolen the wealth of the country and brought the masses of people, including them all, to near penury.  These same people who watched the Independence Day events on television would have been greatly angered to see those same political leaders now disembarking from luxury vehicles while they scraped the bottom of the barrel in their homes.  What they demand from the government, both in street protests and in their homes, is an end to impunity for corruption, abuse of power and extravagance in  public life, which the government appears to be shying away from.

 The question arises for whose benefit was Independence Day celebrated in this manner?  Independence Day in a situation of economic collapse was celebrated in a most unimaginative manner.  The government tried to heed the public opprobrium regarding the cost of the event, and reduced the size of the military parade.  It also axed the cultural parades that represent the aesthetic side of life.  Independence Day should have been celebrated differently, not for the political leaders and not for the international community, but for the people.  This event did not receive much international publicity.  It would not have changed the way the world sees us.  It did not touch the hearts of the Sri Lankan people either.  They were watching on their television sets and conscious of the expenditures that were being incurred for no good reason, and certainly not for their benefit.

BOLD PLEDGES

The celebration of Independence Day could have been done differently.  The government could have recognised the poverty that has ravaged the lives of the people.  It could have organised an Independence Day event that demonstrated an ethos of care for the people.  It could have brought a thousand schoolchildren from the poorest families around the country, and from all ethnicities, religions and castes, and made them a symbolic presentation of schoolbooks and school clothes that would have reflected the government’s commitment to invest in the country’s children.  This was an opportunity lost and would work to the detriment of the government which will be reflected in its electoral performance at the forthcoming local government elections. President Wickremesinghe’s pitch that the country needed a plan to become a developed country in 2048 is to miss people’s concerns to get by the day.  In his televised speech to the nation he said “Let us devote ourselves, unite as children of one mother. Let us make our country one of the most developed in the world by 2048, when we will celebrate 100 years of independence.”

 Despite all the criticism of the priorities of President WIckremesinghe and the government there are still many who continue to place their hope that the president will succeed in problem solving that is in the national interest.  One of President Wickremesinghe’s bold pledges has been to resolve the ethnic conflict that gave rise to three decades of war and to reach a situation of national reconciliation in this 75th year of Independence and “unite as children of one mother”.  When he first committed himself to this task three-months ago, there was some anticipation that this ambitious task may even occur prior to Independence Day itself, or “mission accomplished” would be announced on the auspicious day.  This has not been the case and it appears that even the first steps are yet to be made.  Now the focus of attention will be the president’s policy statement on February 8 when he reconvenes parliament following its prorogation by him a fortnight ago.

 National reconciliation in an ethnically divided society is never an easy proposition.  It requires the support of multiple actors in multiple sectors.  An indication of the president’s determination in this regard was the singing of the national anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil languages at the Independence Day event. This was after a lapse of four years and reflects the president’s resolve to overcome the divisions of the past.  It must be noted that it was under his leadership as prime minister in the period 2015-19 that the national anthem was sung again in Tamil on Independence Day after the passage of many decades.  There are elements in the president and his government that require support from civil society.  We need to overcome the legacy of past mistakes and forge ahead to a future in which lessons have been learnt and mistakes not repeated.

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Issues in fully implementing the 13th Amendment – Police Powers

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President J. R. Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord, which paved the way for the 13th Amendment..

By C. A. Chandraprema

While most provisions of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution have been implemented, sticking points have persisted with regard to two matters – the devolution of police and land powers. Appendix I of the Provincial Councils List in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution provides for the devolution of police powers. The implementation of these provisions will entail the division of the Sri Lanka Police Force into a National Police Division which includes special units such as the CID; and a Provincial Police Division for each Province, headed by a DIG.

According to Section 6 of Appendix 1, the IGP shall appoint a DIG for each Province with the concurrence of the Chief Minister of the Province. If there is no agreement between the IGP and the Chief Minister, the matter will be referred to the National Police Commission, which after due consultations with the Chief Minister shall make the appointment. Thus, the effective appointing authority of the provincial DIG is the Chief Minister. Section 11 stipulates that all Police Officers, serving in units of the National Division and Provincial Divisions, in any Province, shall function under the direction and control of the provincial DIG who, in turn, will ‘be responsible to’ and ‘under the control of’ the Chief Minister in respect of the maintenance of public order and the exercise of police powers in the Province.

According to section 12.1, it is the Provincial police forces that will maintain law and order and be responsible for the prevention, detection and investigation of all offences in the Province except for the 11 specified offences allocated to the National Police Division which are as follows: international crimes, offences against the State, offences relating to the armed services, offences relating to elections, currency and government stamps, offences against the President, Ministers, MPs public officials, judges, etc., offences relating to state property, offences prejudicial to national security, offences under any law relating to any matter in the national government list and offences in respect of which courts in more than one province have jurisdiction. Most of these offences are not really a part of day to day police functions and occur infrequently. Thus, under the 13A, it is the Provincial Divisions which will handle the bulk of actual day to day police work.

Provincial Police to the forefront

Signifying the extent to which the National Police Division will be expected take a back seat, Section 10.1 of Appendix 1 requires members of the National Police Division to ordinarily be in plain clothes, except when performing duties in respect of the maintenance of public order. For all practical purposes, the only uniformed police force, visible to the public, will be the Provincial Police. Recruitment to the National Police Division is to be done by the National Police Commission and to the Provincial Police Divisions by the respective Provincial Police Commissions. According to Section 4, the Provincial Police Commissions will be made up of a) the Provincial DIG, b) a person nominated by the Public Service Commission, in consultation with the President; and c) a nominee of the Chief Minister of the Province. Thus the Chief Minister has complete control over both the Provincial Police Chief as well as the Provincial Police Commission.

In addition to the above, according to Sections 7 and 8 of Appendix 1, the Provincial Police Commissions, which are completely under the sway of the Chief Minister, will have a say in deciding on the cadre and salaries and even the type and quantity of firearms and ammunition used by the Provincial Police forces. However, the potentially horrendous implications of Sections 7 and 8 are mitigated to some extent by the proviso that ‘uniform standards and principles’ shall be applied across the board with regard to these matters for all Provincial Police Divisions.

When recruitment for the Provincial Police Forces are to be carried out by Provincial Police Commissions which are completely under the sway of the Chief Ministers of the Province, the politics of the Province will become the politics of the Provincial Police force, as well. The most obvious foreseeable result of recruiting, within the Province for the Provincial Police force, is that the Northern Province Police force will be predominantly Tamil, the Eastern Province police force largely Tamil and Muslim, and the police forces of all other Provinces, predominantly Sinhala. The implications of politicians, elected on communalistic political platforms, having armed police forces under their control, to further their political objectives, should be clear to anybody. For a country like Sri Lanka which has experienced protracted conflict between ethnic and religious groups, the police powers provisions in the 13A are a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

An equally important consideration is the fact that crime prevention, detection and investigation is very much an inter-provincial, countrywide activity in this country. The creation of nine separate Provincial Police Divisions, answering to nine different lines of command, will seriously hamper the crime fighting capacity of the police which we now take for granted. Today, the IGP and the police force, under him, acts on the imprimatur of the national government, and its outreach extends to every nook and corner of the country. If the 13th Amendment is fully implemented, and the principle day to day police functions, such as maintaining law and order, and crime fighting, becomes the exclusive preserve of the various Provincial Police forces, whose authority does not extend beyond the borders of their Provinces, even pursuing a criminal across Provincial borders will become a tedious, process heavy with bureaucratic procedures and the entire country is going to suffer as a result. (The Colombo and Kotte city limits will not belong to the Western provincial police division but to a Metropolitan police under the National Division according to Item 1 on the Provincial Councils List.)

Readers may recall the 2005 incident during the ceasefire where some policemen, attached to the National Child Protection Authority went into an LTTE held area in search of a fugitive European pedophile and were arrested by the LTTE police. If the police powers in the 13A are fully implemented, in a context where some Provincial administrations are going to be openly hostile to the national government, as well as to other Provincial administrations, similar incidents will become day to day occurrences. The sheer practical impossibility of effectively carrying out police work in a small, densely populated country divided into nine separate police jurisdictions, manned by police forces under nine different lines of command was one of the main reasons why the police powers in the 13A have remained unimplemented for the past 37 years.

Political control over Provincial Police forces

While the IGP will nominally remain the head of the Sri Lanka Police force, even under the 13A, actual day to day police work will become the preserve of the provincial DIGs, acting under the direction and control of the respective Chief Ministers. Under Section 12.4(b) of Appendix 1, the IGP’s discretion in matters related to crime fighting will largely be centered on assigning investigations to units of the national division, like the CID, if he believes that is required in the public interest. But even to do that, he will need to ‘consult’ the Chief Minister of the Province and to have the approval of the Attorney General. Appendix 1 does not have provisions for any mechanism to enable the Provincial Police forces to work in unison in crime fighting or indeed any mechanism that can respond expeditiously to crime fighting requirements throughout the country.

The 13A was passed into law nearly four decades ago, in a different era. In the new millennium, the dominant trend has been to prevent politicians from influencing the police force but the provisions in the 13A seeks to do exactly the opposite.

Even though the new millennium has seen three Constitutional Amendments, (the 17th, 19th and 21st) promulgated for (among other things) the depoliticisation of the police force, Appendix 1 of the Provincial Councils List in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, was left largely untouched. I use the word ‘largely’, because the 17th Amendment did make a few changes in Appendix 1, but that was only to reduce the powers of the President. The Chief Minister’s powers over the Provincial Police remained untouched.

The total and complete politicisation of the police force, envisaged in the 13A, renders it out of step with the times. It was just a few months ago that the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed and under its provisions, the President cannot appoint the IGP unless the Constitutional Council approves his recommended candidate and the President cannot appoint the Chairman and Members of the National Police Commission except on the recommendations of the Constitutional Council.

How will the people of this country react if the police powers, envisaged in the 13A, are implemented, and they wake up one morning to find that the Chief Ministers have been given effective control over the appointment of the provincial DIGs and complete control of the Provincial Police Commissions?

How will the people react when they find that the country has been rendered ungovernable overnight because the police force has been fragmented into nine separate police forces, under nine different chains of command? The gestation period for the fallout resulting from a wrong decision with regard to the police powers laid out in the 13A will not be years or months but weeks and days. Hence this is an area where the government will have to proceed with great caution.

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