By Granville Perera –
The grapevine says “Daham, the son of President Maithripala Sirisena is learning fast the tricks of the trade his fathers predecessors mastered. He has quickly learnt that protecting the corrupt and underworld is probably the best business in town”, but the truth probably is somewhat different.
The Independent Police Commission headed by Prof. Siri Hettige (Chairman) and comprising members Mrs. Savithree Wijesekara, Mr. Y.L,M. Zawahir, Mr. Anton Jeyanadan, Mr. Tilak Collure and Mr. Frande Silva appointed Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (S/DIG) M R Latheef as the Commandant of the Special Task Force (STF) on 4th August 2016. Up to date, he has not been released from his former responsibilities by the IGP to assume duties as the commandant of the STF. The delay leads to suspicion that there are political conspiracies to reject the decision made by the Police Commission. Does the constitution provide for the President or any other to over rule a decision by any one of the independent commissions? Legal opinion is that the President, the cabinet or the Prime Minister has no such powers once the National Police Commission (NPC) or any other independent commission makes an appointment.
Did we hear Mahinda Rajapaksa saying “Kawda meaka Thambiyakuta Dunne?” (Who gave this to a Thambiya?). Oh sorry, I forgot that Mahinda Rajapaksa left his palace on the 9th of January 2015, just over 20 months ago. So, from where did this voice descend? Was it the ghost of the Rajapaksas or did it come from the new tenant?
The widespread belief is that Latheef will clean up the corrupt Special Task Force that has protected the corrupt, underworld, provides favours to political thugs, provided unofficially, vehicles to the current politicians etc. It is also alleged that the former head of STF is worried that Latheef will open up the rotten can of worms that would expose the widespread corruption within STF. He was a top crime buster who was also responsible for busting up the illegal trade and transport of Ganja in the Moneragala district. Earlier, an attempt was made to tarnish his image and throw him out of his job as the top cop of Moneragala for busting up the illegal sand mining, ganja trade and treasure hunting undertaken by well connected political smugglers. He was a real thorn for the politically connected crooks. The former IGP and the police department stood by him.
This time, some heavyweights sitting in the presidential secretariat are accused of using Daham Sirisena and are trying to chew something they may not be able to swallow, because the man they are attempting to munch is a globally acclaimed bold policeman, a proud product of Royal College (my alma mater), a thorough gentleman and an officer par excellence,. Latheef or Latta as commonly known amongst royalists and friends is not a pushover. He provided security for VIPs at the peak of the ethnic war with top professionalism against the threats of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. He is also considered one of the best defense strategists in the country. He came in to international limelight when he presented his strategy to protect athletes and very important persons (VIPs) who could be targets of international terrorists at the Olympic games. Since then, there has been an attempt to get him in to one of the top United Nations positions that could assist in global security.
Latheef is a veteran special task force officer who hunted criminals and the underworld who had absolute political patronage. He brought them to justice and ensured that law and order prevailed wherever he served. His reluctance to dance to the tunes of the politicians has made his police life miserable, but he is a real street fighter who took on the high and mighty and will continue to do so with out fear or fervor.
With the controversial flux in the appointment of Senior DIG Latheef as the commandant of the Special Task Force, the police commission is scheduled to meet on the 18th of August 2016. Will the Police commission reconfirm the STF Commandant’s appointment and stand its ground or bow down to political pressure of the Presidential Secretariat. Will it discipline the Inspector General of Police for not respecting and implement its decision. More importantly, will this be another broken promise of the Yahapalanaya made during the presidential elections. The average man might tighten his belts, but will not tolerate the same song sung by the Mahinda Rajapaksa clan. It is also rumored that Minister in charge of the Police, Sagala Ratnayake is working overtime to get Latheef an appointment with the United Nations, so that he can please the President.
There has also been widespread condemnation by the Muslim community as well. They see this as a purely racial issue and the government is succumbing to the pressures of Buddhist extremists. There could be a huge protest after Friday prayers on the 19th if the Police commission doesn’t act. It is reliably understood that S/DIG persuaded the Muslims not to take any action with regard to his appointment last Friday; The Muslims may not comply this Friday. The Muslims see the non appointment as an attempt to deprive the community of any senior public service positions. A Muslim public servant told me, despite having 21 Muslim members in parliament, there is only one Muslim Secretary to a ministry; there are no Governors, Divisional Secretaries or any other senior public servant. Non-appointment of Police Commandant Latheef would be seen as succumbing to the growing racism of extremist Buddhists who continue to be led by saffron clad men assumed to be Buddhist priests. During this month alone, Buddhist extremist had attacked two places of religious worship. Two days ago, A peace vigil organized by a mixed ethnic civil society was violently disrupted by vigilante monks and thugs right in front of senior police officers. Women were abused and the posters they were carrying were snatched and torn. The same group raided a Jovah’s witness church yesterday (16/8/16) and intimidated two innocent teenage girls and the resident priest. They abused their religious practice.