Mr Chandana Deepal Wickramaratne finally retired on Saturday as the Inspector General of Police (IGP) following four service extensions, the highest number of extensions granted to any Police Chief, making his department headless, as no new appointment has been made to that post until this editorial went to the print.
The post has been creating controversy since March 26 - Wickramaratne’s 61st birthday - when he was to retire according to the law. The controversy took a new turn in June when he was awarded the third extension by President
It created controversy first due to there being not even a faint indication about his successor and the situation was further complicated later not only in terms of administration but also in legal terms as the Constitutional Council (CC) rejected his extensions, more than once.
Wickramaratne was appointed as the Acting IGP in April 2019 and was confirmed in the position on November 25, 2020.
He was to retire in March this year but was granted a three-month service extension by the President, which ended on June 26. The Police Department functioned without an IGP for about two weeks, until Wickramaratne was granted the second three-month extension by the President on July 9, which came to an end on October 9. He was then granted the third service extension for another three weeks on 13 October, and the fourth extension on 03 November. With the completion of that extension, he retired.
When the President sought approval for his recommendation for the second three-month extension, the CC requested that a new IGP be appointed as a further extension couldn’t
His third service extension by the President on October 13 was referred to the CC for ratification but the latter refused to do so on October 17. The CC chaired by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had reiterated that a third extension couldn’t be granted under any circumstances. However, President Wickremesinghe went ahead with the extension, ignoring the refusal of the CC. The CC responded in the same way to the President’s recommendation on Wickramaratne’s fourth extension on November 3 as well, but only to face the same reaction from the President.
When the President extended the service of IGP Wickramaratne for the third time without the approval of the CC many questioned the legality of it. When the Opposition questioned the Speaker as to whether the President usurped the powers of the CC, he amusingly stated that both the President and the CC were correct. Apologists of the President and the government argued that the CC approval is needed only for appointments and not for extensions.
Some even argued that the President is empowered by law to overrule CC decisions. However, both these arguments are nullified by the very referral of the President’s recommendation for the extension of Wickramaratne’s service to the CC. If the President is not legally required to seek the approval of the CC for its recommendations or if he is authorized to overrule the CC decisions, one does not comprehend the significance of the referral and even that of the CC.
This is akin to the President arguing in February that the Elections Commission is not properly constituted to call local government elections, even after his party has
Before Wickramaratne retired, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) had stated that it may consider legal action against the granting of service extensions to IGP. Wickramaratne, without the CC approval.
One cannot understand the rationale behind the repeated extension granted to Mr Wickramaratne and the delay in appointing a new IGP, in the light of the factors related to the matter seeming to be static.
The seniority of the Senior DIGs who are next in line, the serious allegations against some of them and the service records of all of them are facts that one cannot change or undermine.
These are the criteria, other than the liking of the President and the ruling party for the appointment of a new IGP. The confusion and the challenge to the law of the land apart, the country did not gain anything from the delay in appointing a new IGP.