Stating the obvious

Monday, 9 June 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

SRI Lanka’s 150-year-old Police Ordinance law will be revamped next year, ostensibly because it does not meet the needs of a modern Police force. While this may have been glaringly obvious for decades, the Law and Order Ministry has seen it fit to appoint a committee and also request public feedback to make changes. Anyone who picks up a newspaper or indeed has a tiny brain and one eye would be able to tell what changes are desperately needed to make the Police a genuine protector on the people. If latest developments are to be believed, Police now need protection themselves, usually from politicians. 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. Another instance was when the recent drug bust that implicated the Prime Minister came home to roost. Political involvement aside, the Police have been curiously quite over the progress of the largest heroin consignment to be ever caught in Sri Lanka. Police officers standing by when places of religion are attacked can be cited as another instance when Police fail to live up to their mandate. 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. Of late 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.