Is high-tech enough?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka’s Police have gone hi-tech. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) was launched on Tuesday containing investigation reports, crime reports, a database for fingerprints and pictures, police reports and circulars for an in-house communication system connecting all Police stations. The system will connect all 742 Police stations island wide and theoretically provide greater communication and assistance to solve crimes faster. Yet it is surely one step in making Sri Lanka’s Police more competent, depoliticised and the justice system more efficient. IGP Illangakoon’s theory is that a small group of corrupted Policemen are tarnishing the good name of the entire force. If that is the case, then a parallel system must be set up so that such offenders are caught and punished. Yet it cannot be denied that the Police routinely let off Policemen suspected of torture and custody deaths with a slap-on-the-wrist transfer as well as taking no steps whatsoever to depoliticise the force. Several examples of such have transpired over the last few months. One instance was when a solitary Police constable was interdicted and 13 other Police officers including a chief inspector charge-sheeted at the conclusion of the investigations into the conduct of Police officers of the Deraniyagala Police Station during the alleged ‘era of terror’ unleashed by former Deraniyagala PS Chairman and his political cohorts. Reports expressed disgust at the fact that not a single senior Police officer who was in charge of the area during the past decade had been scrutinised by the Special Investigations Unit, which was appointed to probe the conduct of the Police personnel. Residents with tears in their eyes told of gruesome stories where armed gangs operated a rape and torture chamber in the village and routinely terrorised people, allegedly with the support and blessing of top Police brass. Villagers went so far as to beg for a Special Task Force unit to be stationed in the area as they had completely lost trust in the appointed Police force. The ever-expanding drug war in Sri Lanka is another glaring instance when the Police have lost public faith. They have been accused of ignoring key drug kingpins and allowing apprehended dugs to return to the market. Weak forensics and other technical equipment needed to solve crimes must also be bolstered along with a more efficient court system if justice is to benefit long-term. As tensions increase, Police have been accused time and again for failing to protect vulnerable groups, be they minorities or non-governmental organisations. Public perception of the Police, which was never that great to start with, is at an all-time low. The Police is seen as the most corrupt institution in Sri Lanka and public safety continue to be swept under the carpet by officials. Recently they had to be told that beating students till they bleed is definitely not “minimum force”. Effectively reduced to a tool of corrupt politicians, Sri Lanka’s Police stumble ever-lower. Often under allegations of torture, bribery and custody deaths among much else because reform is never taken seriously by the Government’s top ranks. Hand-in-glove, the top ranks of the Government and Police create an environment of impunity that only the public continues to pay for. If the Law and Order Ministry is truly sincere about creating a professional and corruption-free service, then it has to tackle the bigger issues – fast.