The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has established a new Ministry of Law and Order, bifurcating the Defense Ministry, which has been in-charge of the police as well as the three armed forces, according to reports in the local media.
Even though an official statement establishing such a ministry was yet to come, political sources told Express on Friday that the new measure was tantamount to clipping the wings of the powerful Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. It also meant that one of the key demands of the Tamil minority, which was that the army should withdraw from Law and Order duties and hand them over to the civilian police, had been accepted, the sources said.
Acceptance of the demand for de-militarization of civilian functions is expected to help the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in the September elections to the Provincial Council in the Tamil-speaking Northern Province, a pro-government source said.
A section of the media quoted the Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, as saying that the measure was in consonance with the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
The Secretary to the new Ministry of Law and Order would be Retired Maj.Gen.Nanda Mallawarachchi, who is currently Lanka’s Ambassador to Indonesia. The Minister would be the President himself.
Earlier this month, in the Sinhalese-speaking South Lanka also there had been bitter complaints about the use of the army to quell a civil disorder in Weliweriya in Gampaha district near Colombo. People agitating against a polluted water table were shot at by the army’s 58 Division. Three youths were killed in the shooting. The opposition parties held demonstrations against the use of the military to control civilian agitators.