From crisis to catastrophe
in the Eastern Province is fast becoming anarchic. (Please see feature
on opposite-editorial page.) The government's and the SLMC's knee-jerk
reaction has been to panic and attempt some patchwork mending by
appointing untrained home-guards and reserve policemen almost en
But the very
root of the problem stems from the unofficial message sent down
to the police not to upset the fragile truce with the LTTE in order
not to precipitate any violence. As a result, the police prefer
to err on the side of caution and do nothing. This has given the
upper-hand to the LTTE at the expense of the Sinhalese, Muslims
and Tamils not willing to cow down to the LTTE.
in the rest of the country is just as bad. The Minister for the
Interior has uttered the truth - but nevertheless what a damning
thing it is to say. When asked by pressmen this week, about the
escalating crime rate and deteriorating policing in the country,
and why policemen cannot be deployed on effective crime-busting
operations, he laments saying "see what happens to policemen
themselves.'' He cites incidents this week, one when a constable
escorting a murder suspect in the South was ambushed and shot dead,
and another when the last living witness in the Kumar Ponnambalam
assassination case was assassinated, bringing two murder cases to
a grinding halt.
On the other
hand, what has the Minister for the Interior -- who wears a second
hat as the Minister of Christian Affairs -- to say at what happened
earlier this month when a Christian priest who owned some property
in the Mount Lavinia Police area complained about encroachers on
this bare land? He complained to the local police, but no action
was taken. Next scene: He is delivering a sermon in his Church when
a police party from Kelaniya turns up and takes him away right in
front of his congregation, to a car dealer, and is forced to settle
the dispute. No action has been taken upto this date against this
high-handed action of the Kelaniya police.
In the Olitha
Premathiratne police obstruction case, it took a month of Sundays
before indictment was filed. In the Jayalath Jayawardene Jnr, case
of assault of a policeman - it was after some hesitation that police
action led to a prosecution.
created a Legal Division at a time when the Attorney General took
up a questionable position not to appear for police officers accused
of Fundamental Rights violations. Since then, that Legal Division
has become a mere post-office to channel so many other files relating
to offences by policemen, and against policemen, to the over-worked,
under-staffed Attorney General's Department, for necessary action.
This Division needs more teeth.
Police Commission on the other hand, is yet to make an impact and
a name for itself. The Minister, the IGP, and the AG are not naive
to be ignorant of what's happening in the interior of this country,
and the fact that we are close to anarchy in many ways. It is yesteryear's
Chicago style bedlam, with drive-by shootings, and children getting
shot in cross-fires, and mothers being run down at bus stops.
But all of the potentates of police and law enforcement must get
together to instill some fear in both criminal elements and errant
The brave cops
must be encouraged in their challenging assignments, while some
confidence, yes, some confidence, must be restored to an increasingly
frightened and jittery people of the North, South, East and West.