Tackling bigger issues

Wednesday, 5 November 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AS a possible presidential election tiptoes nearer, President Mahinda Rajapaksa began this week by holding a massive function for the Police, where he promised to upgrade the service. Yet the event, which was held at Temple Trees, was curiously lacking in the one element that would make Sri Lanka’s Police more competent, and the justice system more efficient – depoliticisation. 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 while 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. Police have also been repeatedly accused of taking bribes and taking a back seat when dealing with people in power. Perhaps the most recent instance is in dealing with Public Relations Minister Mervyn Silva’s son’s alleged altercation with two tourists that has hit headlines over the past few days. Fresh from a legal battle in the Tangalle case where a British tourist was killed and his girlfriend raped, the Government is under fresh scrutiny to ensure justice. 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 President Rajapaksa and the Government are truly sincere about creating a professional and corruption-free service, then it has to tackle the bigger issues – fast.