Sri Lanka’s police chief pulls out of controversial visit to Scotland

Sri Lanka police chief Pujith Jayasundara, right, at police  headquarters in Colombo. Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/Getty
Sri Lanka police chief Pujith Jayasundara, right, at police headquarters in Colombo. Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/Getty
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A controversial visit to Scotland this week by Sri Lanka’s police chief has been cancelled at the last minute after organisers appeared to bow to external pressure.

Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority has long accused police there of using torture to crush its independence movement.

Inspector General Pujith Jayasundara was due to arrive in the UK today and spend the week at the Scottish Police College in Fife.

His five-strong delegation was expected at Tulliallan Castle for talks on “the way that community policing is structured and delivered in Scotland”, a police spokesperson had said.

However, on Friday night the Foreign Office said “plans for the delegation have changed and the visit is now no longer going ahead next week”.

The visit was set to be contentious. Green Party MSP and ex-policeman John Finnie said he was concerned by “the reputational damage that can flow from repressive regimes having any form of relationship with our much- respected police service”.

Scotland on Sunday understands socialist group Tamil Solidarity was planning a demonstration during Jayasundara’s visit. Influential British Tamil rapper M.I.A. was also about to call for protests.

Sri Lanka’s police continues to be dogged by allegations of torture. This year a UN expert highlighted “distressing testimonies of very brutal and cruel methods of torture”, noting the Tamil community was “stigmatised and feels disenfranchised”.

Last weekend a film about M.I.A.’s life launched in cinemas across Scotland, showing how the singer fled Sri Lanka’s civil war as a child before claiming asylum in the UK and building a career as an international superstar.

She described the situation for Tamils in her homeland as “genocidal” and said: “I hope Scottish independence activists and leaders will protest the police chief’s visit because allowing the relationship between the Sri Lankan state and the Scottish government is not the will of the Scottish people.”

She added: “In the wake of the Scottish independence referendum movement, it’s terrible to see such relationships against Tamil self-determination are allowed to flourish on Scottish grounds.”

Environmental activist Tilly Gifford expected many Scots would have supported Tamil protests during Jayasundara’s visit. She said: “Scotland is not a shining example of community policing.”

Police Scotland said that: “All of the UK’s police assistance work in Sri Lanka is subject to robust risk assessment through the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance process.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Any visit by foreign delegates to the Police Scotland training college is a matter for the Chief Constable.”