Last week, there was a furore about a telephone call taken by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundera while he was at a public function. He was captured on camera assuring a caller he addressed as ‘sir’ that ‘nilame’ will not be arrested.
IGP Jayasundera has so far taken a lot of flak for what happened. His conduct was questioned in Parliament. Unfortunately for him, President Maithripala Sirisena happened to be in Parliament at that time. The President took it upon himself to state that what the IGP did was wrong and added that an explanation would be called for. Reports say this has happened.
The only person to cut some slack for the beleaguered IGP was Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Even as the Constitutional Council prepared to discuss the issue, the Premier was to say that there was no need to ‘investigate’ the conduct of the IGP unless and until there was a formal complaint against him.
There has also been much speculation as to who the IGP addressed as ‘Sir’. Though questioned in Parliament, the government has been tight-lipped about it. Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella has said it could be ‘anybody’.
Obviously that telephone call did not come from the President or the Prime Minister, so it is quite possible it came from a minister or even a very important person in the previous regime. That is because it is hard to imagine that the IGP is in the habit of saying ‘sir’ to every Tom, Dick and Harry. In fact, it is hard to imagine the IGP saying ‘sir’ to every minister either.
That the call came from someone in the previous regime is however unlikely. If that was the case, the government would have gone to town by now, revealing who the caller was. So, the mysterious caller is most likely to be a minister.
To make the matter even more curious, there is speculation that the ‘nilame’ referred to in the conversation is a loyalist of the previous regime. This possibility opens up another potential can of worms: that ministers of the present government are going out of their way to protect individuals associated with the previous regime.
Spare a thought for the poor IGP. What is he supposed to do in these circumstances? Tell whoever the caller is – most likely a minister – that he is not in a position to influence investigations and to please stop calling him? If he did that, would he be in a better predicament than the one he is in now?
This is not an attempt to justify what the IGP did or absolve him of any blame. Clearly, he should not have said what he said and could have possibly said that any decision to arrest or not to arrest the ‘nilame’ would depend on the outcome of the investigations against him. Better still, he should have taken that telephone call away from the prying eyes of the media!
However, all the hue and cry so far has been against the IGP. The person who called him has gotten off scot-free. His identity remains a matter to be speculated upon and he certainly won’t face any consequences.
Isn’t that the real problem here? We have a government which was installed on the promise of ‘good governance’. It pledged to get rid of nepotism, cronyism, corruption and abuse of power and replace it with a transparent meritocracy. What that telephone call indicates is that this is not so – there are still politicians calling the IGP and applying pressure on him regarding various investigations.
That is the issue no one talks about but that is also the matter at the core of this debate. So, while we go about merrily bashing the IGP and demanding his head on a chopping block, we must remind ourselves, none are so blind as those who do not wish to see!