Sri Lanka Brief
NewsThe Association of Chiefs of Police (Rtd.) of Sri Lanka opposes devolving law and order to provinces

The Association of Chiefs of Police (Rtd.) of Sri Lanka opposes devolving law and order to provinces

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Image: Sri Lanka Police in action in Tamil dominated Jaffna. (Credit corporatewatch.org)

The Association of Chiefs of Police (Rtd.) of Sri Lanka has passed a resolution against completely devolving to the Provincial Councils the subject of Law and Order in its recently held AGM. This resolution is based on wrong information and flawed conclusions. This is  an another effort to distort the aims and objectives of the proposed constitutional reform and wipe up extreme Sinhala nationalism. This association made up of  Sinhalese officers  only.

Full text of the resolution fellows:

The Association resolved as follows:

The Interim Report of the Steering Committee of the Constituent Assembly which was debated in Parliament beginning on 30th October 2017 has recommended that the subject of Law and Order which is a Provincial Council Subject be completely devolved to the jurisdiction of the Provincial Councils, as envisaged in the 13th Amendment to the Constitution

1.        It is vital to point out that the provisions of the 13th amendment vis-à-vis police powers were never implemented by any government over the past three decades and one reason for this policy which is quite obvious is that such devolution would have positively rendered the country ungovernable. Devolution of police powers would have rendered the all important concept in good governance, namely accountability, inoperative and that is the fundamental reason  why so many past Presidents including the present, did not devolve police powers, though what is possible is decentralization, which has already been done.

2.       The policy to divide the Police Service into nine Provincial Police Services is conceptually flawed because it is impracticable and unnecessary in this small country of 25000 square miles and 21 m. population, especially, in view of the present and future fast communications systems, road and air transport facilities which facilitates effective central control and direction even in a large country with far bigger population..

3.       It is conceptually flawed for the reason that it fundamentally undermines the unitary and unified command structure. It dismantles the police command structure, thus rendering the chain of command inoperable and national accountability for law and order maintenance impossible. This is especially dangerous in a national crisis or a disaster affecting more than one province, as there will be no one who can be held responsible to the nation in such situations. The most recent example was the petrol crisis, the responsibility for which fell squarely on the Minister in charge of Petroleum and the CPC. This is because the petrol purchasing and distribution was centrally done. The IGP would not have had the authority if police powers were devolved, to give directions to the local police in the southern Provincial Council area relating to the serious clashes which occurred in the Ginthota locality just a couple of weeks ago.

4.       The command and control structure of the Sri Lanka Police Service as articulated by the Police Ordinance is predicated on a unitary model with the IGP at its helm as the head of the Police Force. What is envisaged under the 13th Amendment is the bifurcation of this cohesive entity into two parts by enacting a new Police Act according to which there will be two units, viz National Police and Provincial Police. The IGP will be a titular head of the National police service exercising effective authority only in the Metropolitan Police area, while the heads of the Provincial police will exercise effective authority in their respective areas. In view of this division, the IGP cannot be held responsible to the Minister in charge for the law and order of the entire country and therefore the Minister cannot be held answerable to the Parliament for preservation of law and order in the country. The respective heads of Provincial police will be answerable to the Chief Ministers and through them to the Provincial Councils for the law and order function.

5.        The latter will have powers of enacting legislation pertaining to law and order which will result in    the country not having uniform penal legislation, despite having a common Criminal Procedure Code.

6.       Coordination, prevention, detection and investigation of crime will become complicated and complex with obstacles placed in the area of cross-border crime and investigation and prosecution. For example, the presently most effective 119 system will be impossible under the new devolved proposals. The best example of the centralized co-ordination will be the recent gang rape case of Kayts where the main suspect tried to escape through the BIA with the alleged aid and abetting by the Northern Range S/DIG. It is spectacular that he could be nabbed at the Air Port in no time due to the centralized system.

7.        The National Police will have very few and insignificant functions to perform and would not be entitled to wear the Police Uniform when deployed in the Provincial Council areas.

8.        In this untenable situation the IGP can only stipulate standards and guidelines to be followed by the Provinces and there is no guarantee that they will be followed.

9.       Recruitment will be on a provincial basis which will ensure that the loyalty of the provincial police will be to the local politicians which will threaten the survival of the nation as one unit. No police officer could be transferred out of the province on disciplinary grounds even in cases of serious dereliction of duty. The result would be the flourishing of symbiotic relationships among criminals and corrupt police officers and local politicians.

10.    National and public security will be in veritable danger with the fundamental task of collection of national intelligence made impossible by the division of the police into 10 separate parts. The end result will be not only the degeneration of law and order into a state of anarchy but also the destruction of the nation itself.

11.   His Excellency the President at page 16, in his Election Manifesto dated  19th December 2014, gave a firm commitment that the Police Service will be depoliticized and that promotions will be granted on the basis of merit and performance. But in view of the envisaged devolution of police powers, the police officers and even the Provincial Police Commissions will come under the control and directions of the Provincial Chief Ministers and Governors, which will make the de-politicization promised, a far-fetched implausible fantasy and a dream.

12.   In view of the foregoing submissions articulated after due and careful deliberation, this House resolves that the devolution of police powers to the Provincial Councils will be inimical to the realization of the effective implementation of law and order in the country and to the concept of GOOD GOVENANCE in which law and order occupies a preeminent position and which is in fact the quintessence of good governance.

13.    We furthermore resolve that copies of this Resolution be forwarded to His Excellency the President, Honourable Prime Minister, Honourable Minister for Law and Order and Honourable Speaker and to the National Police Commission for  suitable action.

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