30th April 2000

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Priorities go haywirePolice Problems

Duties and liabilities of police officers are spelt out in sections 56 (a) to 56 (f) of the Police Ordinance:

It shall be the duty of every police officer –

(a) to use his best endeavours and ability to prevent all crimes, offences, and public nuisances;

(b) to preserve the peace;

(c) to apprehend disorderly and suspicious characters;

(d) to detect and bring offenders to justice;

(e) to collect and communicate intelligence affecting the public peace; and

(f) promptly to obey and execute all orders and warrants lawfully issued and directed to him by any competent authority.

The words 'lawfully issued' at (f) are the operative words, and will therefore not justify any police officer executing any warrant or process illegally issued or entrusted to him for service, nor shall he be relieved from any penalty or liability incurred in respect of the execution of any warrant improperly or illegally issued, or in respect of any neglect of duty or abuse of the powers conferred on him.

Section 57 refers.

It is bad enough, as pointed out in this column last Sunday, that police officers are misused by Defence authorities to violate fundamental rights of the public, but now with the entire police force being brought under military command, police priorities are bound to go haywire.

It amounts to declaring a war situation in the whole country. It is agreed that the police have to play their due role in the war effort in the North-East. But with the war in the North-East being 'directionless', how are the Police under such military command, to give the public the service it is entitled to, and discharge its own responsibilities and priorities lawfully throughout the country?

In fact the service to the public from the police has almost come to nil. Police–public relations, vital for proper policing, is relegated to the dumps. Only by way of harassment to the public, it appears that the authorities are trying to maintain law and order.

The bungling and bluffing on the part of the Defence authorities is the topic of conversation everywhere these days.

Volumes can be written calling the bluff, but those most concerned don't seem to understand or they just don't care to listen to logic.

It was also stated in this column earlier in relation to the Police, and now it appears in other sections of the media as well, how efficient and dedicated officers of the Police, the Armed Services and the entire Public Service came to be tagged as UNPers and penalised, simply because they served the State well for 18 years when the UNP happened to be in power.

But this is not all – Officers who had fallen by the wayside due to inefficiency, or to gross corruption as in the case of the present director CID, have been given pride of place.

These officers only know to shout 'hosannas' to conceited and power hungry politicos, feather their own nests, and carry out orders violating fundamental rights of the public and endangering national security in the process.

It has to be borne in mind that too much suppression and violation of rights is what causes youth uprisings in the form of insurgency and terrorism.

Several retired senior police officers are willing to offer their services to educate and motivate police personnel in this hour of need, provided there is professional leadership for the war itself, and Police functions are properly spelt out.

Retired officers are too old to fight in the front, but whilst doing desk jobs, the experience of officers with proven capability can boost the morale of the rank and file, and give the public the service it is entitled to.

Point of view

Turn anger into firm resolve! mobilise!

By Susantha Goonatilake

As Elephant Pass was falling, the Daily News, the State organ was editorialising on the futility of a military victory. It reminded one of the Nazi broadcaster Lord Haw-Haw in World War II speaking for the Nazis in a British voice. Junior Minister Dilan Perera was distributing awards to those who had pushed the same defeatist line for foreign money. Carlo Fonseka, a key government ideologue was dishing out the usual distortions in a review of a film. The Commander-in-Chief Chandrika was away. The official reason was that she was undergoing medical treatment. Other rumours, undoubtedly wrong, had it that she was holidaying in the French Riviera. The Prime Minister was in hospital, more non functional than she had been for the last few years. The leader of the opposition, the spectre of Bat-alanda around his neck, was in Egypt admiring the mummies. Thirty parliamentarians were abroad. The crabs were dancing while the pot boiled, Neros fiddling while Rome was burning.

On the Internet, the pro Tiger organs were daily spewing out claims of LTTE successes. The latest government Information Department release on the Internet was outdated by several weeks. The Minister was sleeping. Locally, there was a censorship on. As in the West there was understandable news management in times of war. But the news of the defeat was not carefully filtered-in to the public. It was broken in the harshest way through the state media by the neo-colonial Sandesaya that it re-broadcasts. It was therefore the ex-bed pan cleaner of white excrement Liyanage who brought the news to the forces in the front. A man who had relentlessly carried on the mission of Tiger propagandist Vasantharaja, was the one who brought the news to our fighters. Angry liberators publicly hanged Lord Haw-Haw, his equivalent in World War II.

Foreign dispatches on the reasons for the defeat spoke of conflicting signals from the politicians, resulting in soldiers confused and demoralised. They spoke of the inability to recruit. They forgot to mention that the government itself was the carrier of the more sophisticated Tiger propaganda that the war should not be won. The state media was the main channel of demoralisation and the main reason army recruitment was not occurring. Five years ago when the army captured Jaffna, the State TV down-played the victory and a man covering the event called the army kalakanni . For similar activity Rupa-vahini head Dew Gunasekera was getting prizes from Dilan Perera. Gunasekera's Communist Party had been for all purposes, a mouthpiece of the Soviet Party, the latter once objecting to our entry into the UN. In the Soviet Union, the punishment for the type of behaviour Gunasekera's Rupavahini indulges in wartime would have been summary dismissal or in World War II immediate execution.

Significantly, days before the LTTE assault, Tiger propagandist Ajit Rupesinghe the brother of Kumar Rupesinghe and key member of the National Peace Council was stalking the Vanni allegedly for peace. He had previously appeared in Tiger propaganda meetings. In any other country at war, he would have been immediately arrested for spying and held incommunicado.

At times like this, national leaders address the public to keep up morale.

The President is away. The Prime Minister comatose.. Whatever their many faults, Premadasa, or Jayewardene would have been on the air by now saying that the fight will go on with extra vigor. The energy Chandrika had after the election for the shameless broadcast with two media abittayas is now absent. . The state of mind she displayed at that inteview and her present silence reveals that, leave alone fight a Prabhakaran, she is not fit for any responsible job. She is possibly the most ill-disciplined leader we have ever had in our entire history; witness her missing appointments by hours. I include in that list Queen Anula. What we ask from her is not extraordinary leadership but the commitment of a minor supervisor in an enterprise.

Much has been talked about Chandrika's French connection and her qualifications or lack of it. It is however not her inability to produce certificates that should be troubling us (as well as her). It is the other French parallels she evokes. In their physical appearance of obscene gluttony, increasingly she (and her brother) look more and more like the French-loving, Farook, the once-despised ruler of Egypt. A disgusted public and army overthrew him. To a Frenchman, she might appear in the mould of a Vichy, the ruler who worked for Nazi interests. Her behaviour in this war is just the opposite of the single minded de Gaulle who liberated France. Others might say that the more apt French parallel is with the corrupt French aristocracy before they were overthrown by the masses. Chandrika when talking of the Nazi behaviour of the Tigers says the original fault is with the Sinhalese. Mary Antoinette when told about masses not having bread had said "let them have cake". That was just before the French Revolution guillotined her. But Chandrika is no aristocrat in the French sense. The British manufactured her "aristocracy". They gave her ancestors' land for betraying the country.

The government is worried about an Indian Tiger lover in Geneva who called for Chandrika's elimination. She should be equally worried nearer home. There are reports of jeering in the army. In some Third World countries, the army would have staged a coup by now. Fortunately for her, no such symptoms have appeared.

Isolated from reality, never having really done a job without a family connection, the Chandrikas of this world have let us down. Many lives were lost because of incompetence. Any self-respecting nation would have immediately called off the peace talks. But....

All our main political groups, UNP, SLFP and JVP have their failings and good points. The UNP and SLFP have many who love this country. The JVP staged its last uprising against the loss of sovereignty, and the new political party is formed on defence of the country. There are good decent leaders among all these, untainted by corruption, ineptitude or Batalandas. They are the likes of Wickremanayake, Mah-inda Rajapakse in the SLFP, Karu Jayasuriya in the UNP, sections of the JVP and S.L. Gunasekera of the new party.

They and other elements of the society should mobilise the country now outside our decrepit Ranils and Chandrikas,if they cannot do it openly, then silently. In the country at large there is anger today. Among professionals and in the man in the street there is disgust. Only among foreign funded NGOs is there jubiliation. Specially professionals must take a leaf out of World War II and volunteer to help the services. When Britain had its back to the wall and the Nazis were gaining, it mobilised its professionals not to fight in the front, but to aid in army strategy. We have over 100,000 professionals in the country today who should be harnessed to help the forces even if the Commander-in-Chief is absconding. Mobilise. Even now.

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