6th October 1996

The Jungle Telegraph

By Alia

Wrong perception?

Nugegoda’s Senior Superintendent of Police, Nihal Dharmadasa, last week took to task two constables of the Mirihana Police, who had worked out their own rules to counter terrorism.

In the wake of the successful conclusion of the third phace of “Operation Sath Jaya” capturing Kilinochchi, security in the city and suburbs were tightened to prevent any LTTE reprisal attacks. Naturally this meant the Police having to exercise extra vigilance.

Among those on whom this task fell were the two constables, clad in uniform they were on their regular beat during a forenoon, when they entered a house to question the chief occupant. He was asked whether there were any Tamils living in the house.

The chief occupant produced a copy of “Declaration of Particulars Regarding Residents/Householders”. The document bears the stamp and signature of the Officer-in- Charge of Mirihana Police and contained the names of the householders and “Temporary Residents” which covered domestic aides.

But the matter did not end there. One constable made notes on a scrap piece of paper as the other continued to question the chief occupant. Do any Tamils visit your house? Do they stay overnight. The answer was yes. The man replied he had Tamil staff working for him in a business venture and they would come on matters relating to work. He added that he had obtained for them National Identity Cards and other documentation to assert their identity.

That is not enough, said the interrogator. From now on, every time they visit you, please telephone the Police Station, give their names and the time of their arrival. When they leave, phone the Police Station and give the time they depart.

It was then that the chief occupant was asked to disclose his identity. He said he was from The Sunday Times.

The tone of the interrogator changed and the one taking notes stopped. The farmer’s conduct which was personified by rudeness changed to one of extra politeness. He declared “Sir, this is not something only for you. We have been told by our OIC at instruction classes to tell all households in the areas to inform the Police whenever a Tamil came to stay at their residence!!! We are only carrying out instructions.”

There was no answer when the chief occupant asked how poor residents who did not have telephones would carry out the directives of these two constables.

Not only Mr. Dharmadasa, but also the OIC of the Mirihana Police. Chief Inspector Harischandra Ban-dara, denied any such orders had been given at instruction classes. No wonder SSP Dharmadasa was infuriated.

There is none other who will be more pleased at the SSP’s action than President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Amidst her official chores some of the calls she has been forced to answer are from Tamils who have been subjected to unjust and humiliating experiences, though they were no sympathisers of the LTTE and were not involved in any terrorist activity.

The conduct of these two PCs is not a new phenomenon. Alia has learnt of many such instances. In one case, in another area, a student taken into custody on suspicion missed his examination by the time he was released. In another case, a bride spent her wedding night in custody and was released later. Both were found to have had no terrorist links. Those affected are frightened to come forward. Alia has learnt that in some of those instances the victims have been forced to cough out large sums of money to secure their release.

Extraordinary situations like the one the country is going through in view of escalating terrorism need tougher measures. But that should not be made the hunting ground for corrupt policemen to seize the opportunity for personal gains or to accuse the innocent as terrorists.

It is high time Police Chief, W.B. Rajaguru, takes tough measures to deal with this situation. Otherwise the much spoken hearts and minds operations and devolution proposals would be of no use. Certainly not if one goes on the ridiculous assumption that every Tamil is a terrorist!!!.

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