By Chandra Jayaratne –
Recently business establishments and householders of Narahenpita area in the Colombo District witnessed a notification issued by the Officer–in-Charge of the Narahenpita Police Station dated 21st January 2021, addressed to the enterprise heads titled “A Notification Connected with Security”. The notification stated that “due to the rapid spread in the country of the Covid-19 virus, that a large number of persons imprisoned connected with various types of criminal offenses, having been either released on bail or pardoned have entered society at large. These persons are most likely to engage in different types of criminal activities in the future. Therefore you are requested to adopt within your enterprises the undernoted security systems, in order to prevent the wave of criminal activities in the future:
* As CCTV recordings are most helpful in the investigation of criminal activities, ensure that such systems are actively maintained within enterprises and if such systems have not been installed make arrangements to have them installed.
* Adopt appropriate safety measures in the transport of cash and arrange vehicles used for such purposes to have safety camera systems or GPS devices.
* Take steps to enhance safety awareness amongst your employees
* Enhance the awareness of the security staff of your establishment of the impending risks and instruct them to be constantly vigilant
* As customers of your establishment may get cheated by crooks/tricksters, enhance their vigilance by placing awareness notice boards within the premises
* Ensure that the parking spaces for vehicles, motor cycles, three wheelers, reserved for customers and staff are covered by CCTV systems; and alert such persons who may leave valuables in vehicles to take necessary security precautions
* Maintain a system of recording details of persons entering your establishment
* Be conscious of persons loitering within your premises without good reason and inform the security staff and the police station
* Instruct security staff not allow entry nor allow parking within your premises of vehicles not connected with your establishment and its services.
* Be alert and conscious of those visting your establishment purportedly to assist your customers and service providers
* Alert the female staff of your establishment to be conscious of persons on motor cycles that may pretend to inquire about directions or seek information, with the intent of robbing their necklaces and request that the vehicle numbers of such suspicious persons to be noted
* Emergency contact details are provided
The above alert notification raises several questions which need clarification by the Police and Prison authorities and they are:
(1). Was the notification issued under the authority and / or on the directions or following due notification of the Inspector General of Police or any designated Officer with authority at the Police Head Quarters?
(2). Was the notification issued by the Sri Lanka Police with the knowledge of and or endorsement of the Sri Lanka Prisons Department? And, if so did they agree with the risks assessment now made by the OIC Narahenpita?
(3). Have other Police stations of the Colombo District issued similar notices? Are similar risks as alerted applicable in the entirety of the Colombo District and other Districts? And, if not what particular areas of the Colombo District are subject to or likely to be subject to such risks?
(3). How many prisoners were released under the scheme referred to in the notification? And, from which prisons were they so released, with the breakdown of prisoners released on bail and on pardon shown separately?
(4). Was a risk assessment of the potential societal risk impact, especially of the risks associated with the safety and protection of households and business establishments carried out prior to the release of the prisoners categories referred to in the notification?
(5). Were the prisoner categories released subjected to a risk grading and only those prisoners who were classified as not deemed likely to cause medium to high risks, subjected to releases?
(6) Are the prisoner categories released, especially the prisoners graded with medium and high societal risks, subjected to an independent external oversight based rehabilitation systems of review on an ongoing basis arranged by Prison Authorities or arranged via the Police Stations nearest to the households of the released prisoners, in order that a continuing assessment and assurance of good behavior can be assured?
(7). Was the Inspector General of Police and the National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) involved in the prisoner release decision making and especially involved in the essential prior risk assessments and also in the validation of the effectiveness of the post release oversight arrangements instituted prior to prisoner releases?
(8). Were public notifications and public warnings issued by the Prison Authorities and the Police prior to releases of prisoners?
(9).In view of the risks of safety and protection now seen by the Police, what additional safety measures would the Police be putting in place to risk mitigate and to safeguard and protect households and business establishments?
(10) Would the Police Stations closest to the released prisoners be now required to institute an independent post event external oversight based rehabilitation system with regular reporting for due good behavior assessment, based on the grading of the risks of the respective released prisoners?
The Sri Lankan approach to combatting Covid-19 as researched and conceptualized by the State Intelligence Service states that the “Vision of His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka is “proactive intervention to prevent any outbreak of COVID-19 within Sri Lanka” and all preparations / actions by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) are within this intent. The GoSL established the National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) to spearhead combined operations of combatting COVID-19. The GoSL strategy in combatting COVID-19 is a whole-of-government approach. It cascades down from the vision and the direction of His Excellency the President and broadly focuses on following four Lines of Operations (LOO):
a. Military / Police / Intelligence- focusing on prevention of virus getting into Sri Lanka, contain if already present and prevent further spreading through various processes. Major components in this process are Detection, Isolation and Tracing.
b. Medical and Health Care-focusing on early detection, isolation and provide treatment while contact tracing through primary healthcare staff. Testing, health surveillance and continuous monitoring are essence in this process.
c. Psychological. This line is focusing on cognitive domain of the community and giving right information about COVID-19 situation, public confidence building and consolidate solidarity. Narrative of psychological LOO in fighting COVID-19 is “Life First”.
d. Economy and well-being of community. This line is focusing on maintaining the economy focusing on future in the country whilst looking after the immediate well-being of population by providing them with uninterrupted food supplies and medicines.
Synchronization of different LOOs and coordination and cooperation between line Ministries, Tri-forces and Police, Departments, Corporations, Authorities, Local Government Systems, all State and Private Sector partners are the masterpiece in Sri Lankan approach in combatting COVID-19.
Spreading of COVID-19 pandemic in the world is continuing and different countries have employed different ways and means to combat the spreading. Sri Lankan model is an aggressive, strenuous and continuous process but comparison of data related to COVID-19 in the world suggests that Sri Lankan approach is a unique and a dynamic model”.
The Million Dollar Question is, was high powered National Operations Centre for Prevention of COVID19 Outbreak (NOCPCO) to spearhead combined operations of combatting COVID-19 in the loop in making the prisoner release decision? And, if so why did the NOCPCO fail to install a Trip Switch before releasing Prisoners?