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RTI Request To Police Falls On Deaf Ears

by Nirmala Kannangara

Pujith Jayasundara, Jagath Wijeweera and Aplication send to receive information under the RTI Act

The Right to Information (RTI) Act doesn’t seems to be in operation with the Secretary Ministry of Law and Order, and in the offices of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), Police Narcotic Bureau (PNB) and Special Investigation Unit (SIU) as they have failed to acknowledge receipt of this newspaper’s request made on April 22, seeking information relevant to IGP’s visit to the New Secretariat building on Tuesday April 11, 2017.

Although section 24 (3) of the Right to Information Act (RTI) No. 12 of 2016 states that, on receipt of a request, an information officer shall immediately provide a written acknowledgement of the request to the person seeking the information, The Sunday Leader is yet to receive acknowledgements from any of the above government officials for the past eight days. This request was made seeking information with regard to the IGP’s visit to the New Secretariat building on April 11 and his subsequent assault on a civilian police employee and screaming at a woman police sergeant.

Following a video clip seen by this newspaper showing how IGP Pujith Jayasundara is assaulting a civilian police employee inside the west side elevator of the new secretariat building of the Police Headquarters, the request was made to the Secretary Law and Order Ministry and others above requesting further details pertaining to the incident. When contacted Secretary Ministry of Law and Order, Jagath Wijeweera on Friday April 28, this newspaper was told that he did not receive the said mail on April 22, nor, the subsequent mails sent on April 24 and 26.

“I didn’t get mails from you seeking these information,” Wijeweera said. When asked whether he knows what happened on April 11 at the New Secretariat building and whether he saw the CCTV footages, Wijeweera said that he was at a meeting and cannot make any comment and to call him after 2pm.

Although several attempts were made thereafter to contact Wijeweera they were not fruitful. A text message was sent to Wijeweera seeking a comment but the Secretary Ministry of Law and Order neither replied to the message nor returned the call until the paper went to press

The first e-mail sent reads as follows:-

Dear Sirs/Madams,

 

Please see the attached request under the Right to Information Act. The material is sought to corroborate a story that will be published in The Sunday Leader newspaper. Please contact me if there are any questions.

Kind Regards,

Nirmala Kannangara

 

As this newspaper did not receive acknowledgement even by Tuesday April 24 another e-mail was sent to the same officials requesting to give the names of the respective Information Officers whom this newspaper could communicate in future. It states as follows:-

 

Dear Sirs/Madams,

Please acknowledge receipt of my RTI request below, dated April 22, 2017, and inform me of the identity of the appropriate Information Officer to whom I should direct future communications.

Also, please note and amend a slight error in the said request. The incident referred to in the request occurred on the morning of Tuesday, April 11, 2017, and not on Wednesday April 12, 2017 as stated in the original request.

Kind Regards,

Nirmala Kannangara

 

High level discussions 

 

Meanwhile confidential sources from the Police Department informed this newspaper that several high level discussions had been held at Police Headquarters relating to our request for information filed on April 22, 2017. As neither the police nor the Secretary Law and Order Ministry did not fulfill the legal obligation to provide written acknowledgements of the request, a third e-mail was forwarded on April 26 to which too there were no response.

The third e-mail stated as follows:-

 

Dear Sirs/Madams,

I am reliably informed by confidential sources of several high level discussions being held at Police Headquarters relating to my request for information filed on April 22, 2017. However, I have yet to receive any acknowledgement of the request. It has been four days since the request was sent.

Section 24 (3) of the Right to Information Act No. 12 of 2016 states that “On receipt of a request, an information officer shall immediately provide a written acknowledgement of the request to the citizen.”

Please be so kind as to fulfill the legal obligation of the Sri Lanka Police to provide a written acknowledgement of my request for information pertaining to the visit by Inspector General Jayasundera to the New Secretariat building on April 11, 2017 and his subsequent assault of a civilian and other related conduct.

Kind Regards,

Nirmala Kannangara

 

As none of the officials were contactable to find out why they failed to acknowledge receipt of the e-mails forwarded to them by this newspaper, questions were posed to the Commission Right to Information to find out as to what action they could take against these officers for their deliberate failure to send acknowledgments.

When contacted, Member of the RTI Commission, S.G. Punchihewa said that in the event if the applicant did not receive any acknowledgement, an appeal can be send to the Commission.

“Make an appeal to the Commission stating that the applications forwarded to the parties concerned had not acknowledge receipt. The Commission will then call upon all the parties concerned with the applicant and hold an inquiry,” Punchihewa said.

A Senior Police Officer who wished to remain anonymous confirmed to  this newspaper that the person assaulted by the IGP was one Samarakoon Banda a civilian police employee and also spoke of an event that occurred the same morning that was only partially captured on the video where the IGP is seen screaming at a female police officer, identified as a police sergeant working at the CID.

 

Letter to President

Meanwhile a letter was sent to President Maithripala Sirisena -the disciplinary authority officer over the IGP to instruct the police to release the information requested by this newspaper under the Right to Information Act, or at minimum to instruct them to acknowledge our request in writing, as required by law. The letter states as folloes:-

 

His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena,
President,
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,

 

April 28, 2017

 

Your Excellency,

 

RTI Request into Conduct of IGP on April 11, 2017

I write to you respectfully in your capacity as the disciplinary authority over the Inspector General of Police.

As you may be aware, The Sunday Leader and other media outlets have reported on an incident wherein the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Pujitha Jayasundera, visited the New Secretariat Building of Police Headquarters on the morning of Tuesday, April 11, 2017, wherein he physically assaulted a male civilian police employee and verbally abused several other police officers in foul language.

As The Sunday Leader reported, much of this incident was captured on several closed circuit television (CCTV) security cameras in the New Secretariat Building. The video footage in question is available in the custody of the police.

I have attached a copy of a request I sent to the police on April 22, 2017 requesting this footage and other details of the incident, however, I have yet to receive an acknowledgement of my request from any police officer. This is despite Police Spokesman DIG Priyantha Jayakody having discussed my request with me on the phone on several occasions, so the police are indeed in receipt of my request.

Unless you take action to intervene, I fear that the IGP may take action to cover up his conduct, infringe on the constitutional rights of those officers he abused and assaulted, and tarnish the image of the police. As the person with disciplinary authority over the IGP, I ask that you instruct the police to release the information requested by me under the Right to Information Act, or at minimum instruct them to acknowledge my request in writing, as required by law. I additionally recommend that you take action to protect the rights of the affected police officers by ordering an independent inquiry into this incident.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Nirmala Kannangara

The Sunday Leader

cc. Hon. Karu Jayasuriya, Chairman, Constitutional Council
cc. Mr. Pujith Jayasundera, Inspector General of Police

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