The Board of Inquiry tasked with investigating any failures on the part of the armed forces and state intelligence services during the recent spate of violence has informed President Ranil Wickremesinghe that the most serious flaw in the conduct of the armed forces, police, and intelligence services was their reluctance to act decisively when the need arose.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed a Board of Inquiry on May 26 to ascertain lapses, if any, by the armed forces and State Intelligence Services during the recent incidents of violence in Mirihana on March 31 and island-wide violence since May 9, official’s sources said.
Accordingly, former Navy Commander, Admiral of the Fleet Wasantha Karannagoda, former Air Force Commander Marshal of the Air Force Roshan Goonetileke and former Army Commander Daya Ratnayake are the members of the Board of Inquiry.
The Board advised that, in the future, the forces should not hesitate to use baton charges, firing into the air, or firing below the knee when necessary.
According to The Morning Newspaper, since its inception on 24 May 2022, this Board of Inquiry has summoned 30 officers from the Armed Forces, Police, and the intelligence services in order to obtain evidence related to the incidents of violence that took place on 31 March 2022 and its aftermath, and 09 May 2022 and its aftermath.
The Board has observed a few key concerns that emerge during almost every session, and which bear direct relevance to the lack of professional conduct during any civil unrest.
“Given the current political climate in the country, which still sees the occasional protest against the government, the board assumes that those protests need to be brought to your immediate attention.”
The Board acknowledged that the Armed Forces, Police, and intelligence services had displayed several serious shortcomings, including a reluctance to act decisively. For example, they would resort to using batons, or firing into the air, or below the knee when necessary. The Board also noted a lack of intelligence co-ordination among the services and poor operational co-ordination between the services.
The board cited the above reasons as arising from the following issues.:
Since no indemnity was available to Armed Forces and Police personnel in the Rathupaswala and Rambukkana incidents, several lawsuits were filed against them. This has created a sense of being abandoned by the government, and as a result, a reluctance to act during civil riots or similar incidents.
The actions of lawyers and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka during recent incidents have also demoralized them.
The government’s refusal to issue visas to officers who were part of the humanitarian operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as well as its continual penalization and subjugation of The Governing Body since 2015, has instilled a fear in them that they would not be adequately protected when they carry out their professional duties.
There has been a lack of coordination among the intelligence services and a lack of regular intelligence sharing among the Armed Forces and Police at almost all levels.
There has been a lack of coordination of operations during a riot or civil unrest situation, or the execution of a contingency plan among the Armed Forces and Police, at almost all levels.
Given the rapidly developing situation in the country, the Board recommends that immediate action be taken to address the reasons mentioned above, in order to prevent such future occurrences as the recent riots.
The Board urges the President to consider this briefing with the utmost urgency.