02/19/2021, 14.20
SRI LANKA
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Controversy rages over the appointment of a woman to top police position

by Melani Manel Perera

Bimshani Jasin Arachchi becomes a Deputy Inspector General (DIG). Some 33 of her male colleagues have challenged the appointment, petitioning the Supreme Court. The first hearing is scheduled for 18 May. A cross-party group of women MPs defends the choice, blaming male chauvinism for the opposition.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The appointment of a female police officer to the post of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police in Sri Lanka has caused waves, not least because of the legal turn taken by the dispute.

On Tuesday, 33 Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the appointment by the National Police Commission.

Some people back the petition, but a number of women MPs, human rights groups and feminists have criticised the legal action, standing by DIG Bimshani Jasin Arachchi (pictured),praising her for the qualities and skills that allowed her to do better than many of her male colleagues.

Three Supreme Court justices – Murdu Fernando, Shiran Gunaratne, and Achala Wengappul – will hear the appeal on 18 May.

Police Legal Division Director Ruwan Gunasekera signed the petition, along with 32 colleagues, believing the decision to be illegal.

“This appointment has disregarded laws, causing serious and irreversible damage to the petitioners’ careers in the Police Department,” he said.

For the plaintiffs, the decision violates existing recruitment and promotion rules of the Sri Lankan police force.

However, such arguments have not convinced everyone. Many suspect that the attack by male officers is motivated by sexism since the post was given to a woman.

This has led a group of women MPs to throw their full support behind DIG Bimshani Jasin Arachchi, who has kept a low profile so far to avoid fuelling the controversy.

The MPs, from different parties, have said that they want to put aside political divisions and unite in this battle to protect the rights of citizens, of women, to equal career opportunities, be it in the military or in civilian life.

Speaking to AsiaNews, women's rights activist Pushpa Ramlani Dissanayake expressed her full support for DIG Bimshani.

“Sri Lanka,” she noted, “signed CEDAW[*] in 1991 and if Bimshani does not get the post, it will be a full and total violation of human rights. Where is the so-called democracy?”

Pushpa Ramlani, a former UN official, agrees. “This is gender discrimination”.

Lavina Hashanthi, a member of the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO), wonders how it is possible to discuss this appointment to a top post in the police “in the country where the first female prime minister in the world was born”.

“Male power is still dominant,” she warns, but DIG Bimshani “has all the qualities to hold the office”.


[*] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

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