Police powers to military threatens democracy - NPC

[TamilNet, Friday, 04 May 2007, 06:16 GMT]
Colombo based National Peace Council, a peace group, Friday said it was "extremely concerned," about SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa's decision, a month ago, about delegating police powers to the military. "There is an urgent need for the government to demonstrate clear political will in regard to law and order processes if it is to retain the confidence of the civilian population that it is not taking the country on a journey to anarchy and to the breakdown of democratic governance," the NPC said. The group said it was apprehensive that this government decision will send wrong signals and lead to an aggravation of the hardships faced by the civilian population.

Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is the defence secretary and another sibling, Basil Rajapaksa, is his political advisor.

Full text of the Press Release issued by the NPC follows:

04.05.07
Media Release

Warning Signs that Democratic Space is Threatened

The deterioration in the security situation has had a catastrophic impact on substantial sections of the civilian population, especially those living in the north and east. In this context the government has recently decided to vest powers of the police with the military.President Mahinda Rajapaksa has issued a gazette notification that the armed forces are expected to perform the functions of the police. The National Peace Council is extremely concerned with this latest development. We are apprehensive that this government decision will send wrong signals and lead to an aggravation of the hardships faced by the civilian population.

The new regulations come at a time when there are reports of violations of human rights by both police and military personnel. According to preliminary findings announced by a civic group, PAFFREL, which is working together with the Human Rights Commission and the Police, about 30 police and military personnel are among 452 persons arrested in connection with human rights abuses, including abduction, disappearances and murders. The National Peace Council believes that these findings reiterate the importance of restoring the integrity of law and order processes in the country.

One positive initiative by the government that we welcome has been the order of the Defence Secretary to the security forces that they should strictly follow guidelines that respect human rights in making arrests and detentions. However, the vesting of police functions in the armed forces can negate this positive order. The police function is a civilian one, and the military is not trained in police methods of dealing with disturbances to law and order. This decision can also send wrong signals to the security forces, and to local and international society regarding the direction of the government.

There is an urgent need for the government to demonstrate clear political will in regard to law and order processes if it is to retain the confidence of the civilian population that it is not taking the country on a journey to anarchy and to the breakdown of democratic governance. This past week has seen the assassination of yet another journalist in Jaffna, belonging to the Uthayan newspaper and threats to stop work that are being levelled against NGOs in the name of the TMVP (Karuna group), which TMVP spokespersons deny making. It is incumbent on the government to take these complaints seriously and to take measures to apprehend the culprits so that faith in the democratic institutions of the country may be on the path to restoration.

Executive Director
On behalf of the Governing Council


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