I had a most unfortunate experience with the police on Poya Day (October 3, 2009), near the Dematagoda bridge.
I was on my way to Narahenpita, and waiting for the traffic lights to turn to green, when a traffic policeman came up to my car and knocked on the window. He asked me to open the door and give him a ride. I obliged and let him get into my car.
After we had crossed the bridge, the policeman asked me to stop the car, and instead of getting down he said he would be giving me a ticket for “talking on a mobile phone while driving”.
I was shocked. This was a completely false charge. I had done nothing of the kind.
His reply was that there were no other police witnesses to support me and therefore I had no option but to accept the charge.
I had an idea. I showed the policeman the call record on my phone. The last calls made and received on my mobile phone had taken place a full hour before I had arrived in Dematagoda.
The police officer then immediately changed the charge to “not stopping when a policeman orders a vehicle to halt” (in Sinhalese, this comes out as “Police ana nothaka riya dawanaya kirima”).
I was shocked again. I could not believe I was hearing all this. This too was a totally false charge.
To this, he coolly replied that I would have to accept one or the other of the charges, either talking on a mobile phone while driving or not stopping for the police. If I refused, he would write tickets for both offences, and perhaps add on more charges, and even have me sent to prison. He said he could easily produce three police witnesses to back him, and pointed out that I had no witnesses. I was alone in my car that day.
Because I have heard and read a lot about rampant corruption in the police force, I realised I had little choice. Things could get a lot worse, I thought. The policeman could press graver false charges. He could accuse me of transporting drugs in my car and bring a bribed drug dealer to say I had purchased drugs from him.
Either I paid a hefty bribe to get out of this mess, or face a long legal process to prove I was innocent and the policeman guilty.
I was unable to take mental note of the policeman’s identity number as the officer had cunningly concealed the badge under the white shoulder strap of his uniform.
I would be very grateful if a senior member of the police force reads this letter and tells us how to deal with such situations, without endangering our lives.
I would also like to know whether a person driving a vehicle is required by the law to give “lifts” to policemen. If we are obliged by the law to give an unknown police officer a ride in our cars, what kind of protection do we, the motorists, have to protect ourselves against this type of police aggression?
Will some senior police officer please answer my queries with a letter to this same newspaper?
Regular readers of this newspaper and all vehicle owners are waiting for your reply. Thank you.