The controversy that sprung last week regarding the security of former President and current Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa merits serious discussion on the provision of security to VIPs and VVIPs.
Our sister paper The Sunday Times in its latest issue said President Maithripala Sirisena had ordered the immediate withdrawal of a contingent of some 500 soldiers assigned to his predecessor’s security detail.
However, Mr. Rajapaksa’s Spokesman Rohan Weliwita was quoted by the Daily Mirror on Monday as saying this was a rumour spread by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and that Mr. Rajapaksa’s security detail consisted of only 102 Army personnel.
He said Mr. Rajapaksa’s security needed to be beefed up because of the government’s move to release “hardcore LTTEers.”
It is not clear on what grounds Mr. Weliwita categorises the LTTE cadres being released by the incumbent government -- many of them were detained for years without being charged as hardcore terrorists -- while those released by the Rajapaksa government were considered as innocent.
This matter is vital for any discussion on VIP and VVIP Security because, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe had told Parliament recently that the government would not release LTTE suspects who had been arrested on serious charges though the Rajapaksa government had released even suicide bombers, who had been deployed to kill even the former President.
Be that as it may, there must be a sensible basis on which the government should gauge the security to be provided to a people’s representative, a high official or a businessman.
In Sri Lanka, it has always been party politics and not a proper security threat assessment that had been the criterion to measure the security to be provided to various people, especially to legislators.
A classic case was the withdrawal of security provided to three war veterans, who were in the forefront of the fighting in the North and the insurgency in the South.
Despite repeated requests for adequate security, the then People’s Alliance (PA) government reduced the security of retired Major General Lucky Algama, when he joined the UNP to contest the Parliamentary elections in the late 1990s. Later he and ten others were killed by an LTTE suicide bomber at an election rally in Ja-ela on December 18, 1999, a day prior to Ms. Kumaratunga herself being targeted by another suicide bomber at an election rally at the Colombo Town Hall grounds.
Major General Janaka Perera, another Army top brass, who earned the wrath of both the southern as well as northern rebels had to go to the Supreme Court requesting adequate security, as his security was reduced by the previous government after he joined the UNP following his retirement. He too was killed along with another 26 persons including his wife by an LTTE suicide bomber on October 6, 2008 at a party office in Anuradhapura.
Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, who spearheaded the war against the LTTE once claimed that his security was reduced overnight from 600 to just six Army personnel once he decided to politically challenge Mr. Rajapaksa.
Now, the same Rajapaksa is lamenting that his security has been reduced.
Rajapaksa deserves maximum security since he would be on the top in the hit list of the surviving hardcore LTTE members and many other, as it was in his tenure the dreaded terrorist outfit was decimated.
But who is to decide the necessity and its degree of security for important people? Heads of the Police and the Security Forces cannot do this since they have been proven to be acting on the advice of the Executive.
Hence, the Police Commission would be ideal for the making of a policy towards this end.