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Promotion of tainted police officers opposed in Sri Lanka

Nilantha Jayawardena and Deshabandu Tennakoon were both indicted by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter attacks
Hundreds of rights activists including priests and nuns hold a demonstration to pressure the government to arrest the masterminds behind the Easter Sunday attacks in Negombo on July 21, 2021

Hundreds of rights activists including priests and nuns hold a demonstration to pressure the government to arrest the masterminds behind the Easter Sunday attacks in Negombo on July 21, 2021. (Photo supplied)

Published: November 04, 2023 04:45 AM GMT
Updated: November 04, 2023 05:22 AM GMT

Christian groups and rights organizations in Sri Lanka have objected to the likely promotion of two police officials, indicted by a probe into the Easter Sunday bombings, to the post of Inspector General of Police (IGP).

Nilantha Jayawardena and Deshabandu Tennakoon, who currently hold the rank of senior deputy inspector general of police, are reportedly in the race to succeed IGP C.D Wickramaratne, whose term ended on Nov. 2.

The likely promotion of either of the tainted officers to the post is being opposed through a petition signed by the Oblate priests-run Centre for Society and Religion and Catholic Lay Scholars Collective, among other organizations.

The Nov. 2 petition has been addressed to the parliament speaker, opposition leader and the Constitutional Council on Nov. 2.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said no name has been sent yet to the Constitutional Council regarding the appointment of a new IGP.

The Constitutional Council is scheduled to meet to decide on the post on Nov. 9.

However, rights activists said the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Attacks has indicted both Jayawardena and Tennakoon.

The report of the Commission of Inquiry “stated that Nilantha Jayawardena is criminally responsible for his actions and omissions.” It even recommended the Attorney General to consider filing a criminal case against him under the appropriate provisions of the penal code, rights activists said.

They further pointed out that Jayawardena has been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay 75 million rupees (US$227,567) as compensation to the Easter Sunday victims.

"Therefore, he is a person who should become an accused in a criminal case and people are of the opinion that he is not at all fit to be the IGP in the country," they said.

Tennakoon is also accused of “failing to perform his duties” during the Easter attacks, while also being implicated in the attack on peaceful anti-government protesters at the Galle Face Green in capital Colombo in May 2022.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ordered the Attorney General to file a detailed report on the disciplinary measures taken so far against Jayawardena for paying up only 4.1 million rupees out of the 75 million rupees compensation for the Easter attack victims. The report is to be filed before Dec. 30.

A lawyer representing Jayawardena told the court that “his client has received only 21 million rupees as salary during his police career,” indicating his inability to pay the entire amount.

Besides the police officer, a former president, top defense ministry and intelligence officials were to pay compensation totaling 310 million rupees (some US$980,000) as ordered by the country’s top court.

Former president Maithripala Sirisena was to pay 100 million rupees and others to pay a total of 210 million rupees from their personal funds.

However, Sirisena has requested a period of ten years to pay the compensation while the others also have defaulted on their payments.

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