The establishment of a special police unit in the Ministry of Buddha Sasana “to deal with complaints relating to religious matters” is unconstitutional and would lead to further deterioration of Rule of Law and escalation of religious disharmony in the country, says the Lawyers’ Collective.
Issuing a statement today the Lawyers’ Collective said; “Sri Lankan Constitution recognizes accountability of the Executive including the police, within a well recognized legal framework. The Government has not established Provincial Police Services and therefore there is only one central Police Department. Under the present legal scheme, in our view, it is not constitutionally possible to set up external police units under identified Ministries not connected to law enforcement and without introducing appropriate statutes, to deal with ordinary crimes. Practically, such police units, dealing with ordinary crimes pose a definite challenge to police accountability, as the Police Department is placed under two Ministries,”
The statement issued by JC Weliamuna on behalf of the Lawyers Collective, adds; “The Police Department, being the primary law enforcement agency of the State, is expected to enforce the general law, irrespective of the nature of the crimes and without religious or any other bias. Unfortunately, in the recent past Sri Lanka has seen total lack of commitment on the part of the police to deal with crimes committed against followers of minority religions and their religious places of worship. The Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Law and Order and the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs, all of which are directly under the President have displayed their lackadaisical attitude to control political hate campaigns and religious extremism.
“Establishing another police unit, in our view, will strengthen the hands of the extremists to use such a unit to intimidate minority religions and their devotees further. This unit will also be perceived as a license for ordinary police officers to shirk their legitimate responsibilities and pass them on to this unit and get away with their duties. There is a grave danger of this unit becoming a centrally controlled tool to intimidate the followers of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.
“The establishment of this unit amounts to recognizing the inability on the part of the police to deal with general crimes of the country in the present political environment. Thus, we as lawyers committed to Rule of Law, urge the Government to disband this unit and strengthen Rule of Law of the country by making the i police independent of political interference so that every police officer of the state will be able to deal with all types of crimes.”