The Government Analyst Department is one of the most important departments with regard to dispensing justice in the country. In its 110 year history, the second female head of this vital state institution, Sakuntala Tennakoon, with experience for over thirty years, was appointed last week.
Ms.Tennakoon obtained her B.Sc Special Honours degree in Chemistry from the University of Peradeniya, obtained her M.Sc in Pharmaceutical Analysis from the University of Strathclyde. There, she received the “Zeneca Pharmaceutical Prize” which is awarded to the most meritorious student.
In one of her major plans for the future newly appointed Government Analyst Ms. Tennakoon told ‘Daily Mirror’ that she hopes to introduce a Cyber Crime Unit to the Department in order to support investigation into highly technical and IT related crimes. She also said being a woman, holding such a highly responsible position is not a burden. She believes that more women should proceed in the analytical fields in the future.
The Government Analyst Department has two divisions. They are forensic and food science. In forensic we do analyse productions related to crimes sent by the courts. Under the food division, we do analyse food samples, water samples, dairy products, liquor etc
Q: As the second female analyst in the history of the Government Analyst Department, what is your view with regard to the role played by the Department?
The Government Analyst Department has two divisions. They are forensic and food science. In forensic we do analyse productions related to crimes sent by the courts. Under the food division, we do analyse food samples, water samples, dairy products, liquor etc. These are tested for their quality. The samples are sent by the Ministry of Health or Public Health Inspectors (PHIs).
I am in fact proud to be the second female analyst in the Department’s history. The Government Analyst Department was established in 1904. The first female analyst was appointed in 1992.
Q: As a woman how do you feel about getting into this important and responsible position?
Gender should not be a matter when it comes to work. There should be equality. I believe gender should not affect you in whatever position you hold or work you do.
Q: What are the challenges you feel that you have with regard to your job? Especially there is a public opinion that the Department does not have sufficient staff nor modern technology.
In our Department earlier there were issues with regard to the staff. We did not have sufficient staff. Even now we have few vacancies but they will be filled by June this year. At present the staff we have are skilled and qualified. They have received foreign training. Therefore, we do not have issues with regard to cadre.
With regard to technology, when we had our Department in Torrington Square we had issues with regard to space and also laboratories. That is because it was there from the inception. We moved our Department to Battaramulla in 2013. Here, at the new premises we have ample space and advanced instruments. At the moment a slot of work is being done. We have technology which is used in other developed countries. And now we have a DNA laboratory which we were dreaming of having for years. Therefore, there are no challenges for us. But we are hoping to develop better methods and more technology in the future.
Q: Any changes you wish to bring in to the Department?
I am hoping to implement the 5s system. Actually we have it even now. But I am hoping to follow 5s in a better way. I am also hoping to establish a Cyber Crime Detection Laboratory. I think we need a laboratory as so far there is no special laboratory for such issues and there seems to be an increase in cyber crimes.
Q: You must be aware that there is a serious problem of laws delays and cases are being dragged for years. It is alleged that delays in Government Analyst’s Reports is one of the reasons for this. What have you got to say about this?
We have cleared most of the backlogs. I hope in the future we can finish cases more efficiently as we move forward with technology. However, I must admit that to solve some cases it takes time. In certain situations we deal with life and death. The time of the outcome of the report depends on the case. Therefore I deny all such allegations.
Q: As you know drug peddling has become a serious problem in Sri Lanka. While many raids are being done, there are allegations that certain individuals in some government institutions are also responsible to this menace. There are allegations to the effect that government analyst’s reports with regard to heroin are being tampered. What is your response?
No there is no tampering. We as analysts solely rely on analytical data and not on people involved with the case. The outcome totally depends on the chemistry and methods we use. We produce our outcome of results to courts. These results are taken as expert evidence. There is no room for tampering. The results of the Department will not change at any cost irrespective of the fact, who is involved with the case.
Q: Have you experienced any external forces trying to interfere and influence the duty of the Government Analyst?
No. Throughout my thirty years of service there has not been any interference or influence by anyone.
Q: Are you satisfied with the technology that is being used? If you think we need to improve in what way do we need to improve?
As I mentioned earlier the technology is more advanced than what we used thirty years ago. When compared to other developed countries we are in a better position. We can even compete with them as we use the same machines and same technology as they use. Yet there needs to be some improvement in some other areas. Especially with regard to Forensic Science. But we are heading there. And I am positive we can achieve our goals in the near future, and yes we can do it.
We have technology which is used in other developed countries. And now we have a DNA laboratory which we were dreaming of having for years. Therefore, there are no challenges for us. But we are hoping to develop better methods and more technology in the future
Q: There is an opinion among the public that the procedures of the Department are time consuming and leads to delays. What is your opinion?
How do the public know what we do here? Certain procedures take time and certain procedures do not take time. The time which is spent on a case depends on a case by case basis. Some cases are complicated. We definitely need time to study those.
The main purpose of a report we produce is its accuracy. To make one report sometimes we might have to do a lot of reading and a lot of tests in the laboratory. Behind our every report there is a lot of work.