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A seven-year stint on the Intelligence Sevices Division

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Keeping tabs on estate unions led to stumbling on JVP activity

Excerpted from the Memoirs of Retired Senior DIG Kinglsey Wickremasuriya

C.R. Arndt was the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Southern Range. He did his Annual Inspection of the Galle Division. I had to accompany him during these inspections. We took our tea and lunch with us. Sometimes the DIG would ask me to prepare a few sandwiches for him as well.

It was a pleasure to watch the DIG do his inspections. He was an inspiration. He adopted an entirely new approach to inspections against the traditional approach by many of the senior officers of the previous generation. It was a management approach against the ‘books & records” approach of the older generation.

He would test check and cross-check some of the selected records and books and come to his conclusion about the state of affairs at the police station in a matter of few hours and pronounce his findings as to whether the station is well managed or otherwise as against the method adopted by a majority of the inspecting officers to ensure that `books & records’ at the station are in order. I too followed his path thereafter, experimented with the new approach, and later produced a Handbook on Inspections for my guidance and the guidance of other inspecting officers.

Once when I visited Police HQ, I called on the DIG in his office. During the conversation, he remarked that one of these days he will have to hold up my increment. I was aghast and asked him what was wrong after having worked so hard. He responded that leaving all the hard work aside, I was delaying the Special Crime Reports (SCRs) due to him and insisted that he should get these reports within 72 hrs. of the incident. He would not accept excuses.

On my return, I bought a typewriter and started to learn to type myself so that I could send the SCR reports to reach him within the stipulated 72 hours and so on. Since that date, I learned that the reports due to the DIG must come before all else and to organize my time accordingly. The result was I was able to organize the work so much that I had free time to spare. During this spare time, I used to sit in the Magistrate’s Court and watch what the OICs were doing. That had a great impact on the court work of the District.

Occasionally we would party as well to take the rigors out of the work and keep up the esprit-d-corps.

Intelligence Services Division (ISD)

I bid adieu to Galle Division on being transferred to the Intelligence Division on October 1, 1969. This transfer originally was something on the cards when I was to be transferred from Badulla District in 1967. But it came two years later at the instance of Superintendent Ana Seneviratne who was the head of the ISD at the time.

It was during this period that there emerged a threat from the estate sector as the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) was mobilizing forces trying to assert itself in a manner that was threatening the security of the plantations.

The task of the ISD was to gather intelligence about persons and organizations posing threats to the national security of the country either by subversion or sabotage. This means keeping an eye on the entire government machinery so that the ISD is aware of all or any quarter from where the threat is coming. Of course, to do this ISD gets a mandate from the Head of State and it works according to the given charter. All methods used by the ISD, however, are subject to legal review.

There was some sort of training of the labor force going on in the estates, with funds from an NGO being spent in promoting this activity. I was assigned to monitor it and report. We established three units for this purpose, one at Pelmadulla, another at Nuwara Eliya, and the third at Bandarawela. I was operating from Bandarawela.

I was first tasked with the basics of establishing these units and attending to the preliminaries of setting up the network. It was in the course of this work that we accidentally came up with an organization (later to be known as Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) that was holding secret meetings.

We at Bandarawela were one of the first to report the plans of the JVP to attack the Wellawaya Police Station. By then, Superintendent Lionel Senanayake had taken over from Mr. Ana Seneviratne with the change of Government from UNP.

He was not trained in intelligence work and was making errors when the Government appointed Mr. S.A. Dissanayake (former IG Police) as an Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Defense. On a decision made by the Security Council, ISD sent out units to several outstations after violence broke out in support of the operations on the ground.

I was sent with a team to Kurunegala to coordinate with OPS HQ at Kurunegala. I found temporary lodgings with a very helpful and kind family. Lionel Senanayake was soon replaced by Superintendent L.D.C. Herath an officer trained in intelligence work with Israeli Intelligence.

As I came into the Intelligence Division, I was sent for training to London to be trained by British Intelligence. The first course I attended was the Desk Officers’ Course. On my return, I learned that I had been well reported on by the British Intelligence Authorities. After training, I was asked to cover certain subjects for which I had several Desk Officers covering them.

With time I went for further training and attended advanced courses. Once I was in charge of training, and the Registry too came under me. This is one area I made my mark by establishing a training wing and bringing reforms into the Registry.

The ISD was making great strides under the leadership of Superintendent Cyril Herath. There was good coverage of political parties, trade unions, and suspected subversive elements including foreign intelligence services working in the country. So much so that we were able to get one diplomat declared persona non grata without the incident being publicized.

At times Mr. Herath would ask us to write a research paper on a given subject. I was asked to write a paper on the subject of “The Danger Posed by the TUF Against the Unity of Sri Lanka”. I produced a 29-page classified document dated January 13, 1976, where to quote from the paper, I predicted as follows:

“Even though the campaign of violence unleashed by the militant Tamil Youth immediately after the declaration of the Republican Constitution did not show a degree of sophistication in the methods adopted, this is no reason to be complacent that the methods will continue to be crude.

“Now that the Eelam Liberation Front is seeking active cooperation with other liberation movements, we would soon have a dangerous situation where we will have a fully trained guerrilla organization on our hands to deal with if no meaningful steps are taken to handle their problems realistically. The problem is bound to assume alarming proportions with increasing unemployment among the ranks of the Tamil youth and the widening communication gap between Sinhalese and the Tamils and the receding chances of redress abroad owing to language difficulties, all adding to the growing issues”

The prediction came true when several years afterward the LTTE initiated the 30-year long civil war. Had the authorities heeded the warning, this costly war could have been avoided.One of the major undertakings entrusted to the ISD during this period was the security operations of the Fifth Non-Aligned Summit Conference held in Sri Lanka in August 1976.1 was assigned the task of managing all security passes by the Director. Inspector-General Stanley Senanayake in his letter of July 20, 1977 commended me for the ‘excellent work done in connection with the Non-Aligned Summit held in Sri Lanka in August 1976 and for making a ‘significant contribution to the success of the Conference…’

The longest spell of seven years out of my career was spent serving the Intelligence Services Division. I was promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police on April 2, 1972 and Senior Superintendent of Police on April 1, 1978 – time-based promotions – while attached to the ISD and was the most senior officer next to the Director / Intelligence.

On occasions when Director Cyril Herath was not available, I had the privilege of attending to his duties including representing him at the Security Council. The Security Council had weekly meetings and was chaired by the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense W.T. Jayasinghe. In addition, I also had the responsibility of sending Serial Reports to the Prime Minister, Secretary of Defense, and the IGP on important security developments. I could carry out these responsibilities with confidence and held the fort for the Director earning the respect of those concerned, in his absence.

With the change of Government after the General Election, the Director too changed. By that time, I had asked for a transfer out of the ISD in response to a statement made by Inspector-General Ana Seneviratne at a forum, that only those in the field will be considered for promotion.

The new Director, Edward Gunawardena, however, prevailed upon me to stay on the understanding that on his leaving the ISD I could take over from him. But I stood by my decision. So, I received transfer orders to go in charge of the Ratnapura Division with effect from December 15, 1977.

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