Cabinet decision on promotions bring relief to police personnel | Sunday Observer

Cabinet decision on promotions bring relief to police personnel

Pic: Saman Sri Wedage
Pic: Saman Sri Wedage

For years the failure to obtain timely promotions has been a common grievance among the rank and file within the 85,000 strong Sri Lanka Police force. Despite sections A-5 and A-6 of the Police Orders setting out the relevant promotion scheme, its implementation has been ad hoc and irregular leading to severe job dissatisfaction and disillusionment among cadres. Therefore, last Thursday’s Cabinet announcement on handing out a one-time en masse promotion to officers who have completed requirements between the ranks of Police Constable (PC) and Inspector of Police (IP) came as a welcome relief to the aggrieved policemen.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer, Secretary, Sri Lanka Police Relatives Community (SLPRC) - an organisation formed to represent Police Officers and their grievances, Prasad Wedage said their request is that these promotions be granted concurrently, rather than at different stages as planned. “Some officers who have fought for their promotions for years are now close to retirement, so our plea is that they receive their due promotion before they have to leave the service,” he said. “If the officers in the forces can get their promotions on time then why does this not happen in the Police ?” he questioned, adding that the blame rests squarely on former senior officers.

In fact, it was revealed last year that nearly 31,500 Police personnel, both male and female ranging from the rank of Police Constable to Chief Inspector were left without timely promotions and their careers were stagnant due to the failure to grant promotions according to an accepted scheme.

At the time, former Police Spokeman SSP Ruwan Gunasekara admitted that the severe backlog had been caused due to the ad hoc approach taken with regard to the stipulated promotion scheme.

As pointed out by some officers, despite an officer needing to complete 10 years of service in the rank of IP to be promoted to the next rank, promotion schemes outside the regular scheme had granted promotions to those who had completed a lesser number of years. “These decisions and schemes were perplexing,”one officer told the Sunday Observer. Meanwhile, the absorption of reserves to the regular cadre in 2006 had also made matters worse. Over the years, regular officers were often overlooked while the reserves who were absorbed rose among the ranks as their service years as reserves were taken into consideration for promotions in a highly irregular move.

This in turn only increased the competition between officers for promotions. For example, when applications for promotions were called in 2003 from the rank of Sub-Inspector to Inspector, a group of Sub-Inspectors, who had sat and already passed an examination to be promoted, filed a fundamental rights petition against the move, fearing that they may lose out on being promoted.

Legal redress

Others too have sought legal redress with the petitioners blaming the National Police Commission (NPC) and the Police for failing to resolve their issues relating to promotions. Currently, nearly 50 fundamental rights petitions are being heard in the Supreme Court in relation to Police promotions.

In a bid to grant some relief to those awaiting promotions, in June last year former President Maithripala Sirisena assured that the delayed promotions will be granted after the formulation of a special scheme based on seniority.

Accordingly, in September last year, a total of 5,824 Police officers were promoted to the next rank with effect from January 1, 2019, as the first of a three-phase program. This included 4,544 Police Constables, 30 Women Police Constables, 169 Police Sergeants, 15 Women Police Sergeants, 878 Sub-Inspectors, 147 Women Sub Inspectors and 41 Inspectors. Among those promoted, some had been awaiting their promotion for nearly 16 years. The other two phases were planned to be executed effective 2020 and 2021, leaving the fate of nearly 25, 000 Police personnel in limbo.

However, recognising these issues, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his election manifesto pledged to bring about a more efficient and acceptable promotion mechanism, reducing the time taken to progress through the ranks allowing those who possess the necessary qualifications and service merit to progress from the rank of Constable to a Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police, irrespective of gender. He also assured that all politically motivated promotions and favours will be stopped while promotions will be based purely on performance reviews and merit.

Cabinet decision

The recent Cabinet decision also appears to have brought the hope of expedited promotions for deserving Police personnel. “A person who joined as a constable should not leave the service in the same rank,” said Wedage. According to him, the Police service is a tough job full of tribulations. “These people deserve some mental satisfaction for their service to the country.”

Therefore, he suggests that the promotions should be handed out concurrently to all those who qualify to be promoted rather than in stages as proposed last year. “They should receive this promotion prior to retiring,” he said.

Hopeful of this possibility, the SLPRC will write to President Rajapaksa next week putting forward seven proposals for the betterment of Police personnel including the request to grant the promised promotions soon.