7th December 1997


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A time for complaints and counterfeits

History of the Ceylon Police

The following is yet another extract in our continuing series of excerpts from the book The History of the Ceylon Police, by former Deputy Inspector General of Police A. C. Dep

The Sergeant at Mutwal arrested a drunkard using some force and took him before his Constable. The Constable released him on his mother "appearing and promising to keep him quiet at home''. When this case came before the District court, the Police were not allowed to retain a lawyer.

The Police were cross-examined to the point of humiliation and uncontradicted assertions about the Police were accepted.

Oswin complained about this to the Governor. "But I have to submit for His Excellency's consideration that the brow-beating and vehemence of manner (if I may so express myself) in the District Court and the uncontradicted assertions relating to the illegality of the Force has been a great discouragement to the Police."

Oswin soon after made his attitude in matters like this quite clear. "As a general principle, however, I would have it understood that although I am determined to support the Police Officers against frivolous and vexatious complaints it is not my wish either to shun inquiry or to encourage abuse of authority."

Cattle Pounding Case-1833

This was another instance where some issues were raised, requiring Oswin to meet them. Mr. H. A. Marshall lived at Maradana. One day his servants seized a cow and calf trespassing on his land. Marshall asked his servants to hand them over to Sergeant 7 Abdool Cader, to be pounded. The Sergeant asked them to take them to the pound. The servants, however, tied them to a tree and went away.

After some delay the Sergeant informed the District Judge who wanted a Police Peon from Maradana to report to him. When Peon 72 Ibrahim reported to him, the District Judge asked him to take the cattle to the pound. He hired coolies and had the cattle pounded. The District Judge fined the Sergeant 3s for his lapses. The punishment however, was squashed in appeal.

According to Regulation 9 of l 833, under which the Sergeant was punished, it was the duty of a Constable to have such cattle driven to the pound and inform the District Judge.

The Sergeant was therefore not bound by this.

Besides it was improper and undesirable for the Police to drive cattle into pounds. This was the function of the seizer who was entitled to a portion of the fine.

If the Police did this they would come into vexatious collusion with the owners of such cattle."

Oswin put forward his objections to this procedure in these words "I beg leave respectfully to urge my objections to the men being employed on the general principle of its being desirable that the inhabitants should look to them as protectors rather than as instruments of punishment and also from the degree of respectability which attaches to them as public servants placing them in some measure above the class of person who are usually employed in such labours."

Counterfeiting of 4 Fanam Coins - December 1833

A Gun Lascar named Sinnetamby and Juan Naide, a Silversmith, of the Gun Lascar Barracks had turned out several counterfeit 4 fanam coins. Once Sinnetamby settled a debt by giving 3 of these coins to Mohamed Lebbe Wapiche.

Soon after Wapiche went to the old Bankshall and purchased a measure of coffee by giving one of these coins. Andregey Lincho hamy at once detected the coin to be a false coin. When Wapiche tried to snatch the coin and get away, she held him by the cloth and called for assistance.

Police Peon Catchong who was on duty close by arrested Wapiche, took charge of the coin and produced them before Sergeant 5 Sabhan. Sabhan took them before the Head Constable C. N. Schubert and an inquiry was commenced at once. Schubert went to the Kayman's Gate Guard room where Sinnetamby was on duty recovered 3 more coins and Sabhan who along with Constable I.G. Kern searched Sinnetamby's house found 7 more 4 fanam coins. Besides there was a piece of Dalipothu (Cuttle fish shell). The Gun Lascar Sheik who searched Juan Naide's house found a basket containing items such as files, hammers, bellow, scales, lead and pieces of dalipothu. These items were not necessary for a soldier but for a counterfeitor of coins. Sinnetamby and Naide said that they were trying to make gold.

All facts were reported to Courts, the productions were labelled and carefully packed and handed over to Mr. Kessels, the Constable of the Courts. The accused were to be charged for uttering and possessing false coins and for turning out false coins.

Bravery of the Police Vidane of Pitakotte - 1834

C. F. Harrell, a deserter from the 61st Regiment and another man named Philips was seen in the village of Pitakotte. The Villagers seized Philips and Harrell got away.

When the Police Vidane and villagers of Pitakotte cornered him, he levelled his gun at the Police Vidane and pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire and he was immediately seized. In May he was convicted and sentenced to 2 years hard labour in chains and the Police Vidane's name was put up for a reward for the brave discharge of his duty.

The Great Flood of 1834

This unprecedented flood occurred in December. The Kelani river rose 13 ft 3 inches above the normal water level at the Bridge of Boats and inundated the country for over 30 miles. The flood level reached was a foot over the 1828 flood level. The 1828 floods were considered to be the greatest flood within living memory.

The Head Constable Schubert did good work at Mutwal and earned the appreciation of Government and a reward of £10/-. The dam which ran along the bank from Kelaniya to Peliyagoda was badly damaged.

Rescue of Persons and Obstruction of Duty

In March 1837 Police Peons armed with warrants were sent to Colpetty to remove a woman stricken with Smallpox. This was a duty required of the Police. A mob set upon the Peons and rescued the woman from their custody.

The Superintendent Oswin took this up with the Colonial Secretary asking him what he should do in future cases of this type.

The instructions he received were briefly "That in the event of your being forcibly resisted in the execution of a warrant for the removal of a smallpox patient it will be your duty to enforce its execution by the best means in your power."

In 1838 Thomas Oswin was replaced by Joho Dinwoodie as superintendent. He died in September 1839 and John Dalzeil took charge of the Force.

The Rescue of an Accused from Police Custody-1842

Two seamen of the ship 'Tigris' were arrested for assaulting a native in the public streets. They were detained in the Head Constable's Office.

Shortly afterwards three seamen came there and removed them, while the Military Officer at the Main Gate and the Water Gate looked on without giving any assistance.

Besides with three peons, the Head Constable did not dare to stop them.

Next morning armed with warrants a Police party went on board the ship and brought the five men ashore and detained them in the Police Office.

The Superintendent Dalziel addressed the Colonial Secretary to instruct the Military to aid the Police in matters of this nature.

Why writers aren't racehorses

The Booker is good for bookies, but it has nothing to do with literature feels this writer.....
By Simon Barnes

It is generally agreed that literature matters more than sport; that Marcel Proust is more important than Eric Cantona Hamlet than Michael Atherton, Anna Karenina than Anna Kournikova. Sport is an altogether inferior activity. But when it comes to the moment for literature to steal the spotlight, get on to the front pages, become a talking point, it does so by pretending it is a sport.

This is called the Booker Prize. The book that really counts is the one created by the bookmaker. Bernard MacLaverty with 'Grace Notes', is 2-1 favourite. Come on my son! It all takes me back to the sixth form, when Ralph and 1, tipsy on our second halfpints, would argue thunderously as to whether or not James Joyce knocked D. H. Lawrence into a cocked hat. We did not discuss their relative virtues: we wanted to know who was the winner.

Literature is swarming with prizes. I have a novel of my own entered for one of these; best not go into details. And it is possible that the wise, all-seeing prize committee will come to the obvious and "inevitable decision - how can this Barnes be so good? - but I suspect that in the end, I will have to go around despising both the judges (who are these people anyway?) and the whole concept of awards. So meaningless, my dear, and so demeaning.

The snag is that you can't really say that prizes and awards are meaningless unless you have got one. Woody Allen was presented with this opportunity, surely the ultimate luxury. He didn't turn up to Oscars night when he won a hatfull for Annie Hall: he preferred to play his clarinet in New York.

The Woody role in the current Booker is being played by the uninterviewable Madeleine St. John The Essence of the Thing. (9-2, get stuck in there, girl!). ' She writes novels and doesn't see why she has to perform, said Joanna Prior, publicist for her publishers. To be consistent, St. John will have to refuse the award, or give it to the poor; but neither human beings, nor for that matter, novels, need to be consistent to be good. It is a very deep part of human nature not only to want to be the best, but to want to know who is the best. Perhaps it comes from the atavistic need for a dominance hierarchy, a need spawned when proto-humans lived in troops on the African plains. It is an instinct that made people who were good at messing about in water invent the sport of synchronised swimming. Ballroom dancing is about to become an Olympic sport. Torville and Dean flung themselves into the crater of an imaginary volcano in a skated dance of doomed love, to win a gold medal.

There is hardly a sphere of human activity that does not have some kind of scheme for working out who is the best. It happens in my own profession. Journalistic awards, I mean, my dear, such an absurd concept ... But I (like Woody) am allowed to say that, because on one or two occasions, the wise, all-seeing judges have given one to me. (On far more occasions, the blind fools have given the meaningless bauble to whichever time-server was due for his turn that year.)

I can remember Steve Davis, the snooker player, a delightful as well as a fascinating man, speaking to me in the press room at the world championships.

Competition is incidental. I don't imagine MacLaverty and St John were sitting at the word-processor, playing on despite the groin strain, telling themselves: "I'm going to get the Booker this year! Second place is just the first loser, baby! Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing!"

In sport, competition is everything. It is entertainment that is incidental. Occasionally, footballers say: "I am an entertainer." Any sane manager should sack such a player on the spot. Sport is a zero-sum game. It produces a winner, a loser. And sports atavistic simplicity goes very deep: so deep, we try to turn many other things into sport, into zero-sum games.

But life is not a zero-sum game. And nor, for that matter, is literature. The notions of prizes, awards, dominance hierarchies, pecking orders have nothing to do with art: and yet nobody involved with art can resist them. The Turner Prize, the Booker, Young Musician of the Year, Oscars, Grammys, Baftas and on, and on. Such things are as meaningless as they are powerful; rather like sport itself. In my experience, there is only one form of creative fiction that is truly competitive - the compiling of one's expenses. I look on this as a straight fight between myself and the managing editor. I see it as my imagination against his: damn'd be him that first cries "Hold, enough!" - The Times

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