Escalation Of Violent Crime & The Need For The Depoliticization Of The Police In Sri Lanka
This column dedicated to the notion of fulfilling the aspirations of Sri Lankan society turns its spotlight on the escalation of violent crime and the need for the immediate depolticization of the Police in Sri Lanka as Sri Lankan society would aspire for the prevention of such violence.
During the past few weeks many incidents of horrendous violent crime from many parts of our island paradise were reported in the media. These included the murder of an aged mother by the son wielding a mammoty, raping and murder of children around the age of five and the gang rape of a school girl by a group led by a provincial politician. These crimes have led to the people of Sri Lanka demanding the re-instatement of the death penalty for such horrendous crimes.
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2010 speaking of the status of the policing system in Sri Lanka stated that:-‘The policing system in Sri Lanka has lost its capacity to uphold the rule of law. Lawlessness has spread into all areas of life as the police remain incapable of dealing with crime and upholding law and order. The Inspector General of Police and the high-ranking police officers no longer have the capacity to ensure discipline within the police as the policing system is controlled from the outside by the executive president and the politicians of the ruling regime. This process is known as the politicization of the police force. The Sri Lankan police have a reputation of the widespread use of torture at all police stations. Hundreds of cases have been recorded in 2010 relating to use of torture and extrajudicial killings that have taken place throughout the country. However, there is no machinery to investigate such allegations. A few years ago, Special Inquiry Units (SIUs) of the CID were assigned to investigate allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings. In many of the investigations, SIU teams found that the allegations were credible and many indictments were filed against the police for violating the country’s law against torture….When allegations of abuse of police authority are made to the Inspector General of Police, he promptly sends a reply promising investigations. However, nothing credible ever happens. As a result\ the practice of torture and extrajudicial killings continues at police stations.’
In the light of these observations the depoliticization of the Police in Sri Lanka has become an immediate necessity if the rule of law in our country is to be upheld. The practice of appointing political stooges to police stations in various electorates as Officers-in-Charge on the recommendations of politicians of the ruling party must be halted forthwith and independent officers must be appointed to uphold law and order in various areas of the country. Wrong-doers irrespective of their political leanings should be brought to justice.
The shameful political interference with police investigations must be stopped paving the way for unhindered investigations in order to bring the wrongdoers to justice. The media reported last week that several Cabinet Ministers have said that no one is above the law in Sri Lanka. What a blessing it would be to our country if this were true. Some appear to be more equal before the law than the others. Under what law in Sri Lanka did Julampitiye Amare carry a T 56 weapon, don a uniform similar to that of the STF and continue to terrorize the villagers in his area, commit murder in broad daylight, then visit a prison inmate unhindered when there were 100 warrants out for his arrest and finally surrender to court under the protection of prison officials are questions that these Ministers would do well to answer. Due to the halting of the death penalty, the criminal elements in Sri Lanka have lost their fear of committing any horrendous crime and then spending a paid holiday in prison with their old friends.
The report speaking of the status of judicial independence in Sri Lanka further stated: ‘The country’s court system is beset with extraordinary delays and inefficiencies to the extent that it is incapable of ensuring fair trial….The ever diminishing authority of the courts has made its adverse influence felt in all public institutions….The actual possibilities of judicial protection of the individual against the state has been reduced to an extent that today, the power of the judiciary is marginal. Judges who dare to act with independence to uphold the writ jurisdiction for the purpose of safeguarding individual citizens seriously risk their own judicial careers… At the heart of the failure of justice in Sri Lanka are several factors: Inadequate budgeting for justice allows for extraordinary delays and inefficiencies within the system. Besides this, the overall politicization of the public intuitions has also penetrated into the area of administration of justice. The public trust in the process has been seriously eroded over a long period of time.’ Although the situation in 2010 was as reported the status of judicial independence in Sri Lanka has been further eroded during the last two years. The statements made by former High Court Judge Hon.W.M.T.B Warawewa and reported in the media bear testimony to the said fact.
Speaking of the present political status in Sri Lanka the report states: ‘Political opponents are subjected to fabricated cases, as demonstrated in many cases filed against the former opposition candidate in the presidential election, Sarath Fonseka. The only way out of fabricated charges for such political opponents is to find a way to compromise and to abandon their political opposition. The serious pursuit of destroying the multi-party democracy has been a pursuit of all political regimes since 1978.
The present regime has mastered this art and thus multi-party democracy in Sri Lanka is under serious threat.’The apparent weakness of the divided opposition to mount a challenge to the ruling party has become obvious in recent times with Cabinet Ministers boasting that the opposition parties have become powerless to present a challenge to the ruling party at the forthcoming provincial elections.
Speaking of disappearances the report states: ‘The result is the continuous occurrence of serious abuses such as forced disappearances….It is common to hear threats of disappearances. The possibility of such occurrences has created a climate of fear in every part of the country….In Sri Lanka, the possibility of realizing human rights continues to become bleaker as the power and authority of the courts are continuously reduced due to the expansion of the power of the executive president.’ If a powerful official in Government is bold enough to say ‘I don’t care for the bloody courts’ one may realize the parlous state of the Rule of Law presently prevailing in Sri Lanka.
As usual let me conclude with an amusing anecdote. Two magistrates arrested for drunken driving agreed to try each other’s cases the following morning. The first magistrate fined the second five dollars, but when the first magistrate’s case was heard he received a hefty hundred-dollar fine and a two month ban. The first magistrate was furious “Why did you do that?” he asked his colleague ”I know”, said the second. ”But there is too much of this type of thing going on these days. Yours is the second such case this morning.”
(Vide: The Giant Book of Jokes Editor. Dave Phillips, Magpie Books London-2005.pp173-174.)