20 June, 2021

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New Ministry Of ‘Law And Order’ Reminds Apartheid South Africa: What A Tragedy!

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

It is undoubtedly an odd name. Probably the brother himself must have given the ‘dead rope’ to the President who is obsessed with not so much of law but ‘order.’ There was only one country with a ‘Ministry of Law and Order’ to my knowledge in the world and that was Apartheid South Africa before 1994. After the demolition of that brutish regime, a new ministry was created called the Ministry of Safety and Security to take charge of the police (SAPS). Still South Africa is beset with issues of crime and safety as a legacy of the past.

In India, there is a Ministry of Law and Justice and that is very much similar to our current Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms. The police service in India comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Now in the past, the police have been shifted between Defence and Home (and Internal) Affairs, back and forth, several times, and this is the first time that it was placed under an odd ministry. Even this time, it should have been placed under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Administration and the Minister being none other than WDJ Seneviratne.

There are contradictory reports as to the formation of what the Daily News (24 August 2013) called the ‘Brand New Ministry,’ as if it is another miracle of Asia.[1] Both the banner headlines and the content of the lead story say the “President issues extraordinary gazette notification, brand new ministry is born and will formulate policies for Mahinda Chinthanaya implementation.” No report and especially headlines could be taken on the face value, but if they are any indication, there are dangers of further politicisation of the police service in the future.

Mahinda Chinthanaya has nothing to do with the police and law and order. It is basically a political manifesto. If the task of the new ministry is to implement this political manifesto, then only god knows what will happen to the country and the police. When the police directly come under extremely a partisan and a political president, then the independence of the police will completely be hampered. There will be lot of traffic in the Temple Trees area, the IGP and many DIGs, IPs and even henchman police constables going back and forth, on ‘beck and call.’ The remaining independence and dignity of the police service will be denigrated. When Aemilia Lanyer wrote her poems Salve Deus Rex (meaning Hail the God King) in 1611 this is what she said about a similar situation:

“The Muses doe attend vpon your Throne,
With all the Artists at your becke and call.”

There of course can be a good side to it. After the police come under the President directly, there will be no excuse for corruption, negligence or inefficiency. One may argue the other way round. Moreover, efficiency is not the only quality required by the police. Fairness and justice are much more important. It is in this context that the police should have been placed under the Ministry of Home Affairs, rather than creating a new ministry. It is part of the public administration.

According to a Colombo Page report (23 August 2013) “rising communal extremism and deteriorating law and order situation” is the main reason to establish the new ministry. If this is correct, then there is a clear admission of failure when it was under the Ministry of Defence! Yet again, the Minister is the same and that is the President himself. This is undoubtedly confusing unless there is an admission of the failure of the Secretary of Defence or his bias, especially handling ‘communal extremism.’ He is President’s own brother.

It is in this context that what was said by the Secretary of Defence is important. Perhaps it was in defence, not the country but himself. The lead story of The Island newspaper on Saturday (24 August 2013) reported with its banner headline “Police, STF placed under new ministry in line with LLRC recommendations – GR.” It also revealed the following.

Asked whether the ongoing controversy over the military crackdown on the August 1 Weliweriya protest had prompted the sudden decision, the Defence Secretary said that the new ministry had been created in keeping with the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.”

What he categorically said was that it has nothing to do with his incompetence in settling the Weliweriya crisis, even after sending the police from the beginning or even the army and also having several discussions with the disputed parties, but faithfully following the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

If that is the case then the unanswered question is that why it is done at the very brink of the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s visit to Sri Lanka giving the impression that the government is after all towing the line of the UNHRC, prompted by the US. Otherwise, there was ample time before to implement the LLRC recommendations. There is an obvious connection between the High Commissioner’s visit and the creation of the new ministry but not necessarily with the LLRC recommendations. Or, if at all, the connection between the two is very remote. It is not very clear whether the intention is to deceive the UNHRC or the people, or both.

The connection between the two can be claimed resting on the recommendation number 8.193 of the LLRC Report which says

The Police Department is a civilian institution which is entrusted with the maintenance of law and order. Therefore, it is desirable that the Police Department be de-linked from the institutions dealing with the armed forces which are responsible for the security of the State.

The key positions that the LLRC had maintained were (1) the police department is a civilian institution (2) it is entrusted with the maintenance of law and order (3) therefore it should be delinked form the institutions dealing with the maintenance of armed forces (4) the armed forces are responsible with the security of the State (not obviously law and order).

The LLRC has nowhere recommended or hinted the creation of a new ministry. Perhaps they were thinking in terms of the tradition and the practice in other countries and that means the police again coming under Home Affairs. The creation of a new ministry is not the major issue, but the absence of the recommended ‘delink.’ The name for the new ministry is also not the main issue, but it has hilariously been taken either from Apartheid South Africa or what the LLRC says as the task of the police department: the ‘law and order.’

What is implemented is not a tangible delink but rather a camouflaged bifurcation. Now the ministries are different, but both (rivers) flow from the same source, the same Minister. And the Minister is the same President. The Secretaries to the two ministries are also former army personnel. One is the Minister’s or the President’s own brother and the other one is also good as ‘family.’

What is also shown by the recent move is the reluctance of the power holders to give up crucial power bases from the family grip, the army and the police.

If the creation of the new ministry is along the lines of the LLRC recommendations, then the other recommendations integral to the above recommendation also should follow. If that is properly done, then I will take my hat off. The above recommendation to delink the police from Defence comes in the section of the LLRC Report called the “FAILURE TO GIVE EFFECT TO THE RULE OF LAW.” The title itself is significant categorically emphasising the FAILURE. I am not capitalizing the title of the section, but it is capitalized in the Report.

There are 4 major areas of observation from 8.185 to 8.188 subdivided into 11 categorical clarifications with substantial evidence and then comes 6 recommendations from 8.189 to 8.194. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss all the recommendations, but 8.194 should be emphasized as the final and the most important. This follows from the recommendation to delink the Police from Defence and it is about an Independent Police Commission as follows.

“The Commission is of the view that an independent permanent Police Commission is a pre-requisite to guarantee the effective functioning of the Police and to generate public confidence. Such a Commission should be empowered to monitor the performance of the Police Service and ensure that all police officers act independently and maintain a high degree of professional conduct.”

The supporters of the government may argue that there is a National Police Commission now functioning and it was appointed after the LLRC recommendations in November 2011. Yes, that is the case in respect of the appointment, which was done in February 2012. However, it was there in the Constitution ‘amputed’ under the 18th Amendment in October 2010. If it were a question of appointment, then the LLRC could have said so. When it says “The Commission is of the view…” it says something different and something crucial. And it is about the ‘Independence of the Police Commission’ which is pathetically lacking in the appointment of the present National Police Commission and its powers and functioning.

It is the President who is the ‘Minister of Police,’ now and even before, and it is the President who appoints the Police Commission. It is the same President who is the Minister of Defence. Where is the De-link?

What a Tragedy?


[1] I beg your pardon for my uncontrollable disdain.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Thank you Dr. Laksiri for a very clear exposition of what this ‘Brand new ministry’ is and its dangerous implications for the future.

  • 0
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    Dear Laksiri,

    It is primarily to deceive the visiting UNHRC who may, otherwise, point this out as an issue of poor governance. Besides, if you now
    create a Ministry of Law and Order you are, otherwise, admitting
    Law and Order was in want until now. That, of course, is very
    true and one must congratulate the regime for the courage in admitting
    a serious short-coming. But why a Military man as head of a Police-centred institution? A life-time man military man is clearly not cut out to handle the delicate sensitivities and nuances of dealing with the ordinary man in the street. His life has been one of giving and order and expect it to be followed – no matter what. That is military discipline. The move is either to further strengthen the hand of GR or to concede the Military has exceeded its role it is now virtually impossible to consider filling senior State positions without the military playing a role there. It is a further example of our going the fastly-declining Pakistani way.

    The answer to your concluding question may well be that remarkable Sinhala village saying “Baduth hamduruwange naduth hamduruwange” – if you will forgive the minuses in my halting Sinhala.

    Senguttuvan

  • 0
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    LAW, Who’s Law,

    taken by distorting, deception, Deceiving.

    like my Law [ low] Degree.

    Order or Odour,

    Who’s odour is this.

  • 0
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    Thanks for this! Everything is UPSIDE DOWN in the Debacle of Asia

    The Rajapassa brothers are so crude! This new ministry is for Madam Pillai’s benefit as MR scurries off to Belarus on some ruse!

    BUT How can the police be removed from under the military and Gota the Goon – when the so-called secretary of this Ministry of Order is a exmilitary General!

    In any case The highest concentration of law breakers are in the Rajapassa family and cabinet of crooks and in the diyawenna parliament of corrupt thugs, clowns and thieves..

  • 0
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    A tragedy indeed!

    Except this tragedy is far worse than what Sri Lanka endured for 30 years with the LTTE cancer.

    Now the nation has to deal with a gigantic family from Hambantota. Imposing itself on areas of government & society uninvited. With unprecedented dynastic ambitions. Bordering on megalomania. With scant disregard for rule of law or Sri Lanka’s constitution.

    Further, opposition is dysfunctional, useless and untrustworthy. Making matters far more complicated. Leaving citizens fully exposed to brute force of the Junta regime. While self-serving opposition clowns continue to bicker among themselves endlessly.

    We will be lucky to get out of this mess in 50 years. What a tragic country. Just as we thought there will be a fresh start for the whole country. And all of us.

    Tragic.

  • 0
    0

    A tragedy indeed!

    Except this tragedy is far worse than what Sri Lanka endured for 30 years with the LTTE cancer.

    Now the nation has to deal with a gigantic family from Hambantota. Imposing itself on all areas of government & society uninvited. With unprecedented dynastic ambitions. Bordering on megalomania. With scant disregard for rule of law or Sri Lanka’s constitution.

    Further, opposition is dysfunctional, useless and untrustworthy. Making matters far more complicated. Leaving citizens fully exposed to the brute force of the Junta regime. While self-serving opposition clowns continue to bicker among themselves endlessly.

    We will be lucky to get out of this mess in 50 years. What a tragic country. Just as we thought there will be a fresh start for the whole country. And all of us.

    Tragic.

  • 0
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    Who are the crime family trying to fool? The only law is whatever benefits them, and they often change, or break the present ones, (even removing a judge if necessary), and the only order is to propagate violence against minorities, journalists, critics, members of the opposition, and innocent civilians who ask for clean water. After CHOGM it will be back to the same unlawful activities, and lack of order when it comes to violence. Let’s give them credit for being masters of deception. Ministry of Law and Order, what a joke.

  • 0
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    Sometimes, in an attempt to cling to power, the leader of a nation makes such fundamental changes that they affect that nation for ever. Subsequent leaders are unwilling and often unable to repair the damage.

    In the Sri Lankan context there are two such events. SWRD’s Sinhala Only Act and JRJ’s creation of an Executive Presidency. A third is in the making – MR’s blurring of the powers and duties of the military, the courts, the press and parliament.

    My humble opinion is that this third event is by far the most damaging blow of the three. It will have far reaching consequences from which it will be impossible to recover.

    • 0
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      Taraki’s “3rd point” is indeed valid and deserves serious thought, particularly the excessive administrative powers devolved on the armed services. Whilst the subjugation of the legislature, judiciary, and the press can be reversed, powers of the military may turn out to be difficult to dislodge as experienced by many countries and often it will be the military that will assume political power in time. This is what worries many of us.

  • 0
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    Despite the conjecture on whether the creation of this ministry was due to the LLRC report, or the Navi Pillay visit, what is clear is that the government has done something unexpected. I think that the real reason is that for the first time it has acted (or reacted) to the public outcry following the mishandling of Weliveriya. Another interesting point is that for the first time a function has been removed from Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. These changes may reflect a change of attitude. Time will tell.

  • 0
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    the other interpretation is that there is a split in the brotherhood and MR is taking over some of the powers.. Secy to the new ministry is not considered a Gota protege…. neither apparently is the new army commander – but that is another story…

    • 0
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      [Edited out] Please don’t post gossip web links – CT

  • 0
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    Those who want to subjugate Sri Lanka, LLRC report is the constitution.

  • 0
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    The NEW Ministry has be declared open with the 1st Investigation by Namal at an auspicious time, in the absense of MR, but within the knowledge of
    GR!
    [Edited out] Please don’t post gossip web links – CT

  • 0
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    The new ministry has an omnious begining: Read
    [Edited out] Please don’t post gossip web links – CT

  • 0
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    Since it comes under the President and not the Defence Secretary, MR should take full responsibility for Law and Order situation in the country. Let it not become Low and Odour.

  • 0
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    Excellent analysis and revelation by Dr. Laksiri Fernando. Rajapakshas were waylaid, rounded up, drilled and riddled!

  • 0
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    Dear prof.Laksiri,
    It is really great to see your wise perspectives. I am Shiran from Peradeniya,Polgahamula. I want to contact you immediatly via email. My email. shiraneranga@gmail.com.
    Thank you

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