Sri Lanka’s police chief has triggered calls for his resignation after footage emerged showing him assaulting an employee who refused to participate in mandatory morning meditation sessions.
The leaked CCTV video showed Inspector-General Pujith Jayasundara grabbing a lift operator by the collar and making threatening gestures after he did not join the regulation “mindfulness meditation” at police headquarters.
Jayasundara had already raised eyebrows in February when he made daily meditation mandatory for the 85,000 officers and staff under his command. Work at all stations halted for 15 minutes every day because of the practice.
Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the incident risked further embarrassing Sri Lanka’s police force, whose reputation has already been tarnished over allegations of abuses during the separatist war and thereafter.
“If our police chief is behaving like this, then we will have to accept when international organisations accuse our police of routinely using torture on suspects,” Senaratne told reporters in Colombo.
“There are serious questions about issuing such instructions in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society like ours.”
Several news websites called for Jayasundara’s resignation and said he should be sacked if he did not step down on his own.
Sports minister and co-cabinet spokesman Dayasiri Jayasekera said there were questions about Jayasundara’s initial circular asking all men and women to follow meditation.
“If police are under stress as the IGP suggests, it is better for them to do some physical training exercises at the start of the day,” Jayasekera said.
Jayasundara is no stranger to controversial outbursts, having been put on notice after publicly declaring he could “bend the law without breaking it”, government sources said.
He has claimed prayer in front of bo trees and other Buddhist rituals helped elevate him to the top police job.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said no internal disciplinary action was being taken against the IGP.
Jayasundara was the first police chief appointed by an independent commission set up in the aftermath of the civil war. He can only be removed by parliament.