|Eroding confidence in police,
a serious issue
The wording on the logo of the
142-year-old Sri Lanka Police proclaims, in the words of Lord
Buddha, ‘dhammo have rakkhathi dhamaachaari’ - he who lives by
the dhamma is protected by the dhamma. It may well be time to
revise this, at least on the logo, to say that those who side
with the police are protected by the police, if events of the
past week are any yardstick.
Consider the evidence: A student at a higher educational
institution in Malabe is abducted, threatened and beaten
allegedly by the wife and son of a top ranking police officer
and days later, two youths detained by the police over a minor
complaint are found dead within hours, with gunshot wounds, in
Angulana, leading to mayhem in that area.
And, just to confound the picture, the same policeman, whose
son and wife are allegedly involved in the assault of the
student, ‘discovers’ a haul of explosives in Mannar, only to be
scoffed at by a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police who
says that the circumstances of the ‘discovery’ are extremely
irregular and suspicious.
It was only a few weeks ago, in the aftermath of the victory
over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), that we were
falling over ourselves in trying to felicitate the Army, Navy,
Air Force and the Police, for the role these services played in
the annihilation of the Tigers and the valiant men and women who
sacrificed life and limb for this, richly deserved all the
accolades they received.
On that occasion, when the focus of the entire international
community was on Sri Lanka and there were many vested interests
eager to point fingers at this country, it became self evident
that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces - the Army, Navy and the Air
Force - were among the most disciplined in the world. Today, we
have to bury our heads in shame and admit that the same cannot
be said about the Sri Lanka Police.
The incidents in Malabe and Angulana are a sad testimonial to
the arrogance, indiscipline and partisan nature of the Sri Lanka
Police. It is also an indication of a trend where the police,
the State authority tasked with the maintenance of law and
order, are becoming a law unto itself. We must forewarn that
this tendency could grow into a social crisis of mega
proportions in the near future, if it is not nipped in the bud
In the Malabe incident, everyone seems to know who the
suspects are and the media has virtually revealed every minute
detail of the gory event. But for the super efficient Sri Lanka
Police, this is not enough and none of the key suspects have
been apprehended yet. Of course, various spokesmen for the
police have been making the usual promises of an ‘impartial’
inquiry! In this instance, the wheels of justice seem to be
moving in slow motion.
Contrast this with what transpired at Angulana: A complaint
is made, two youth are detained, summary justice is meted out
and their bodies are found by the roadside. The police appear to
have finished their job at lightning speed, playing judge, jury
and executioner in a fast-forward enactment of the entire
Then, we also to have to consider the incident of
‘discovering’ explosives in Mannar. A DIG is stating that the
circumstances surrounding the event are suspicious. In a strange
coincidence, the officer involved is the same person whose son
is implicated in the Malabe incident. The entire episode is
indeed getting ‘curiouser and curiouser’, as Alice in Wonderland
would have said!
In the context of these events, will there be any confidence at
all in what the Police Department does in the future? We have
been told that the war is over. In a post-war scenario, the
Army, Navy and Air Force will essentially revert to a defensive
role and the onus will shift to the police to maintain law and
order in the country. Can that happen when the police
demonstrates blithe disregard for the letter and spirit of the
law and does only what it wants, when it wants?
We do know that some policemen and some politicians work in
tandem in this country. It is often a symbiotic relationship.
The politician requires the policeman to do his bidding in the
locality he represents. The policeman requires the politician
for his own survival and to ward off evils such as ‘punishment
transfers’. It must, therefore, follow that any attempt to
cleanse the police of corrupt officers who abuse their powers
must involve an attempt to rid it of political influence as
After each and every incident, impartial inquires have been
promised and ‘special teams’ have been appointed. So far, very
few culprits of the khakied gentry have been brought to book.
There is no reason to be optimistic that the final outcome of
last week’s incidents would be any different.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is riding high on a wave of
popularity. He could do without the kind of adverse publicity
that is generated by the Sri Lanka Police, which will eventually
be his responsibility, because he is also the Minister of
Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the
Police. Therefore, it also in his and his government’s interest
to rein in the police and deal with those responsible, so that
it would serve as a deterrent to others in the future.
It is said that in times of war, laws are silent. Even though
the war is now over, the silence of the Sri Lanka Police is