19 May, 2022


Frustrated Police Becomes Pain To The Public

By Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya

Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya

I was flagged down by two traffic cops somewhere in a place in down south last week for high speeding. I was pretty sure I was below the speed of 60 as I was blocked by two three-wheelers, but the cop showed me 76 on the screen of his old, poorly wired speedometer which could be at least two decades old. I had a good case to argue, but would I be successful? Thus, decided to compromise.

Instead of writing the charge sheet, one cop started talking to me in a decent manner. He wanted to know where I work and who am I, and where I was going. I was not keen to divulge further personal details as those were not directly involved with the offense that I have allegedly committed. But I told them that as I have exceeded only 4 points of the speed limit, they have two options – either to charge sheet or warn and pardon me – and I urged for the second option. They were bit obliging, but indicating “something” in return. Then I became firm – no bribes. “The people of this country decided on January 08 that enough is enough – and that decision includes you, not only the Executive of the country. That decision should go to the grassroot of the system of governance including yourself. So, please don’t pardon me, but write the charge sheet,” I demanded with a strong voice.

Then the two cops started feeling the heat assuming that I am from a somewhere higher up. They repeatedly asked who I was and I repeated that I am a citizen of this country. And then they started pleading me to leave without a charge sheet, but I insisted that I will not leave until I get the charge sheet to my hands. Now a big drama unfolding on the street. Vehicles were flying, but the attention of these two helpless cops was entirely on me. My wife was furious as I was not obeying to the request of the cops – [another cop in waiting in the car].

Then the two cops started divulging their grievances, probably to win my sympathy – but those stories really disturbed my thoughts. “Sir, this is the 26th hour that I am continue to wear this uniform without a single minute rest,” one said. And we are extensively being pressurized by our superiors, poor salary systems, no welfare, no appraisals, away from families for long periods, tough duties under tremendous conditions, the list of agonies continued. What a level of frustration..!!

We should be thankful to these cops at least they are smiling, I was thinking.

Of course, there are plenty of complaints against these guardians of law and order of the country. Just think for a while – what is the first impression that you get when you hear the word “Police.” I am sure the brand does not bring positive connotations to your mind as it is cluttered with corruption, misuse or abuse of power, misconduct, no respect for individuals or human rights, the list could go on. And there are plenty of examples that could be derived from every rank and file of the police force, from the top most to the bottom. Imagine, if we had an IGP who had drug trafficking barons to pay for his higher education, Deputy IGs conducting contract killings and treasure hunting, what else we could expect from the lower ranks.

Mind you, this is not unique to Sri Lanka, almost everywhere it is the same except countries like Singapore where you find better salary and other systems are in place for these service providers.

But there is another part of the coin as well. The frustration and disappointment among the cadres at all levels. If a human being is wearing a uniform and continuing his duties for the 26th hour at a stretch, what kind of humanity could we expect from him? Thus, his stress is relived through the beating up of a person on a street, or in the cell. This is not to justify the misconduct of cops at any cost, please do not misunderstand. I hope you have seen the recent video of cops beating a handicap person in public in Anuradhpaura and the stupid clarification by their seniors to justify the conduct. Look at how the police dealt with the 17 year old suspect on the Seya’s rape and murder case by divulging unnecessary details to the public? Remember the recent famous Batti case in Ratnapura where a cop physically attacked a woman in public in Ratnapura? Why these incidents are continue to occur?

There is a dire need of perception change in both sides – police and the public. On the side of the police, not only the perceptions, but structural and technical as well. One needs to look at their grievances with an open mind. “My take home salary is around 17,000 as I have loans and other levies on my salary. Wife is not employed and we have two kids. How on earth we can live with this salary?” asked one police sergeant. If all allowances calculated along with the basic salary, the take home of a constable would reach around Rs 35,000 but when loans are deducted and other levies are paid, the balance is hardly anything, they would claim. Not that every police officer would receive his or her living quarters, thus there is a heavy house rent as well. Supply of uniforms is not in a satisfactory status, for an example one pair of shoes and only two pairs of socks per year.

Of course, one can easily compare with this any other sector of the state where the salary structures are not that different. But please do not forget the fact these servicemen and women have no specific working hours and they are not compensated for their extra duty hours – imagine that cop I mention above has completed by then his 26th hour of duty – a pure violation of labour laws, but those legal systems are not applicable there. The only methods of compensation are independent appraisal and rewards – both do not exist in better standards within the police department, as I understood. The appraisals are not independent and transparent – but entirely depend on individualism, so do rewards. Mostly nepotism or favorism could be the main criteria for selection. The reward fund of the police department would amounts to billions of rupees but hardly anyone would receive them – or rewarded for the deserving cases, both seniors and juniors would complain. The rewarding system should be entirely revised, make it transparent and independent as it is currently under the prerogative of one individual, they claim. The story of police promotions is another can of worms, it seems. Thus, the level of frustration remains at its highest which is being relived through the line of duty. Yahapalanaya should penetrate in to all levels of governance ending authoritarianism, a good comment I heard from a senior ranker.

The change of perception within the rank and file is of paramount importance if the police need to correct its negative image within the society. The process should start from the grass root constable who is the first victim of the chain of command. Police need to review all those recent adverse incidents and find out what where went wrong and why it has happened – and then try to find remedies. Then only the change of perception from the public could be expected.

(I will not seek comments from both police spokesmen, the acting one as well as the one studying in China as both of them are well known to me from our young days –and their own stories will be longer than this piece).

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  • 7

    The entire police should be dismantled and rehabilitated and monitored as a first priority. The police is the breeding ground for most of the crimes and abuse in Sri Lanka. It is very difficult for a decent human to go to police station for any matter and come out with dignity and respect. truth will hurt but this is the reality.
    create a new police with better motives and goals. Respect the dignity of the people and customers. Get officers with graduate degree and train them with post graduate degrees in social studies and law. Teach them moral values and customer oriented approach. They must be fluent in all three languages, no drinking or smoking by the member of police. post A.L students could be drafted for police man power and to do their electives or apprenticeship .

  • 10

    Other day I gave a lift to a Police Constable and he told me that at least they can carry out their duties now without political interference. He too was returning to his boarding after an all night assignment.

    I once saw the conditions at a Police Station where these people are supposed to stay. It resembled a cattle shed with stench of sweat and unwashed socks. Police Stations too are dingy and cramped. No wonder they take it out on the public.

    High time they are treated properly and given decent living and working conditions.

  • 4

    Ranga Kalansooriya

    RE: Frustrated Police Becomes Pain To The Public

    “They were bit obliging, but indicating “something” in return. Then I became firm – no bribes. “The people of this country decided on January 08 that enough is enough – and that decision includes you, not only the Executive of the country. That decision should go to the grassroot of the system of governance including yourself. So, please don’t pardon me, but write the charge sheet,” I demanded with a strong voice.”

    “We should be thankful to these cops at least they are smiling, I was thinking.”

    “Police need to review all those recent adverse incidents and find out what where went wrong and why it has happened – and then try to find remedies. Then only the change of perception from the public could be expected.”

    These are idealized wishes. The fact is that there is corruption at the highest levels, and the lower levels try to get the piece of the action

    So, the correction needs to come from the top and need to filter through to the bottom.

  • 6

    Unfortunately we have not had a decent IGP for a long time. All of them have been political stooges and you cannot blame them because the current system cultivates such behavior.

    Any IGP in office is well aware that he has 1-2 years max term and the idea is to tow the line with government so that his retirement is sorted out. Either an ambassadorship or state institution chair is the goal. Can you believe we have even had IGPs as head of banks!!!

    We have almost 50 DIG s now and most of them have no work. They even don’t have a proper office. Some are even in custody now for illegal activities!! However most of them have done well for themselves with kids being sent abroad for studies.

    Hopefully the new Police Commission can clean it up to some extent.

  • 1

    I had the same experience a few years ago where I was stopped and shown that I had done 74 Kmph. I asked the Cop to book me that I will sought it out in Court and further said as a driver one observes the road and not the odometer all the time and risk meeting with an accident. Then he became hesitant in booking me and was trying to explain that there is a law that limits the speed to 70 Kmph. I believe the Cop thought that I was a Lawyer and allowed me to proceed. The problem with the Police is that no longer children from decent families join the forces to give them the much needed impetus. If the public want a dignified service from the Police there should be dignified Officers. How can one expect any dignified service from the Police as the majority if not all are the ruffians in society. In the interest of society the salaries should be restructured to attract the best and the decent to join the Police. I recently had to visit the Welikada Police Traffic branch to retrieve the license of my spouse and was appalled to see the type of character in Police uniform. Most of them resembled IRCs in Police uniform. In fairness to the decent I must remark there are a few. For the 15 years I worked in Colombo I plied between Kandy Colombo every week-end and some times midweek too. I used to cover up the journey in one and half hours. It was skill and and observance that I escaped the Speed cops. Once traveling up to Kandy down the Gasnawa area I was stopped for speeding at 120 Kmph. at around mid-night. I brought the vehicle to a halt without screeching brakes by gear downing just by the Cop. After I explained to him that although I had speeded at that time in the night I am very observant and careful and that was the reason I did not go past him nor jammed brakes, but brought the vehicle to a halt just by his side.I also told him that I did this trip every week-end. After him asking for my name and where I worked and looked at the DL, he let me go and said to drive carefully.

  • 3


    You have not confirmed whether you ended up paying the fine or not.

    Corruption has become endemic in Sri Lanka like in many other Asian countries. Poor salaries and benefits may be one of the main reasons in some cases but not in all cases.

    Look at the Customs Officers of Sri Lanka. I understand that bribing customs officers has become an accepted norm. I heard that unlike the policemen who may be taking bribes individually, these customs officers get a share of the pool of bribe money (or santhosam) provided by various importers, apart from getting a share of the fines legitimately imposed under the Customs Act. Most custom officers are fabulously rich and some even own residential properties in western countries like Canada and Australia. Some of them even send their children to study in UK, Canada and Australia and they conduct fabulous weddings for their daughters spending vast sums of money. I heard of a Tamil Customs Officer who had spent over 50 lakhs for the wedding of his daughter not long ago. That was not dowry money but the cost of the staging the wedding alone at a high class hotel in Colombo.

    As for the working hours and service conditions of policemen, no doubt these need to be looked into and addressed. But, that is no reason for them to take out their frustrations from the members of the public. That attack on the handicapped man on the motor bike in Anuradhapura was most despicable and that DIG who justified that attack does not deserve to hold that rank.

    You highlighted the sorry plight of the policemen but are you not concerned about the plight of the people who these very same policemen put behind bars? Have you ever heard the continued cries of the mothers,wives and sisters of those Tamils who remain incarcerated for years under the most deplorable Prevention of Terrosim Act (PTA)? Some of these detainees were known to have become mentally deranged because of their years of incarceration.

    Why none of you right-thinking Sinhalese people ever thought about the hideous nature of this piece of legislation?

    The most objectionable section of Sri Lanka’s PTA is section 2(1)(j) which reads:

    2(1)(j) harbours, conceals or in any other manner prevents, hinders or interferes with the apprehension of, a proclaimed person or any other person, knowing or having reason to believe that such person has committed an offence under this Act, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.

    Do you know that the Colombo High Court which a couple of days ago sentenced Ragupathi Sarma for a period of 300 years jail term in the attempted assassination case of Chandrika Kumaratunga remained in custody for more than 15 years before he was finally found guilty under this very same sub-section 2(1)(j) of the PTA? He was a Brahmin priest living in Colombo with his wife and I understand that they were charged for allowing some persons known to them to stay in their house and these persons later turned out to be suspected LTTE members who were alleged to have been involved in some way in that bomb attack. His wife, who too was incarcerated on the same allegation for 15 long years has now been released by the High Court as innocent after being denied her freedom for 15 years. In the absence of the incarcerated parents, their children had to be cared by others.

    Do you know the number of Tamils who are still incarcerated under this particular sub-section of PTA? As far as I know the Government has not released any statistics.

    Now that the Ranil/Maithri government has agreed in the UN Human Rights Council resolution to repeal the PTA, will you educated Sinhalese people urge your government to do away with this legislation immediately and also to immediately release all those Tamils who are still incarcerated under this most hideous Sri Lankan legislation?

    Rather than worrying too much about the working conditions of these policemen I wish you do something that will help your Tamil brethren in Sri Lanka. Freedom and liberty of people whether they are Sinhalese or Tamils are more important than living or working conditions.

    • 1

      I did not pay anything, just ended up as a listener and then a sympathizer to them. I shared some cookies I had in the jeep and had a long friendly chat before bidding good bye.

  • 3

    i fully agree with this issue, since i find that the cops on the streets to check on speeding vehicles is not with the genuine intention, but to harass the public for obvious reasons. We all know that they only check very selective vehicles never check on those buses that speed along these roads, and for their reckless driving. Further more, these instruments should be calibrated in order to confirm the accuracy of the machine. I wonder whether this is done with the proper authorized person or a institute to ensure effectiveness of the reading. If they do calibrarize these instruments, should carry the certification for the relevant machine along with the serial number of the instrument on it for the public to see. The most saddest of them all is when you are coped for a traffic offense out of your living district on a holiday. Present system leads to corruption in order to avoid inconvenience caused to public by not having the post office open at the time your charged by the cops. What is the option left for the public under such circumstance, bribe and get out or come on another working day to the cop shed travelling all that distant out of your residential area,if you live in colombo, it can be jaffna batticaloa or any other district, to get the charge sheet from the cop shed. then you have to go to the nearest post office and pay the fine and hand it over to the police at the station to get your license.

    Isn’t this process is very corruption friendly,… than to prevent accidents or any other purpose. IGP or the DIG traffic should take these points and stream line aforesaid shortcomings with more effective methods and fool proof system so that the public is not harassed in this manner which will invariably increase the much needed revenue that government needs.

  • 1

    Did the road you were traveling have signs indicating speed limit?
    The signs are required to make conviction.

  • 2

    Offenders, irrespective of who they are, would never admit that they are wrong.
    The writer says the speed gun was poorly wired. Are you a technician to claim that. The wiring in my house is not poor, but really bad and still it works and
    all systems go. The wiring is not the judgement of the offender. Also the writer admits he was only 4 points in excess of the speed. What is this computation ?
    The speed gun shows 76 and the speed limit is 60, the excess speed should be 16.

    The police may have their grievances but that is no excuse for ignorance of their duties, especially when challenged.

    I, myself, have committed numerous road errors which in the eyes of the law and police are traffic violations, and have been warned several times by the police
    but never have they indicated or indirectly asked for a bribe although I am aware that they do take bribes.

    The bottom line of this story is that corruption has grown like wild weeds
    principally nurtured from the top. MR administration was corrupted to the core
    and it continues even today in My3 admin because the same corrupted people are continuing to hold power.

    I feel the police in the country are ok but need to be taught more discipline,
    and to respect the common person on the street.

    • 3

      “”I feel the police in the country are ok””

      you sound like a policemens sweetheart.
      Even in England we do our best not keep company of the bobby. when the bobby does not answer our call we call the police complaints commission and the idiot comes.
      Pirates are pirates no matter what colour – try to understand your culture.
      The day all hell broke loose was when the `left party` speaking cock and bull came to power 1956 – the reality was Banda was jealous of Dudley the son and he started the fascist cult in line with the Portuguese.
      Till then the buruvas from the north and south had not arrived in the capital.
      Its like competing the janes next door with an axe in hand- with that decency left for good.
      Now you learn hindi for they want their land back and are todays pawn brokers for SL government.
      Life can only get worse when people are not reasonable but divide on emotions- religion ethnics etc.

  • 1

    “Mind you, this is not unique to Sri Lanka, almost everywhere it is the same
    except countries like Singapore where you find better salary and other systems are in place for these service providers.”

    I reside in Singapore, High salary could curb the corruption level but can never eliminated. It is by educating the public not give bribes. Having said, I myself have been a victim of this system.

    I was forced to give bribe for a construction approval in Sri Lanka even though every supporting document was provided according to the local government rules and regulations. The only reason I had to succumb to their demands because my overseas travel necessity. After all these difficulties, still these officers are dragging.

    I should have taken your approach standing firm like you, which I never did.

    • 3

      Singapore is a Chinese culture with a mix of western order not the protesting contended Asian Indian or Lankan culture. Things do take shape in % at the top but its taboo to discuss.
      Bribes are blatantly taken by lower rank in all communist/ left governments of the world- by principal the system is a parasite of right government’s democracy. It’s the culture of impunity and quality of life that is the cause. It’s not specific to 3rd world but it takes place in Europe(poorer sector) too with police.

      You cannot change the culture (here they are still wild in action as in China or India)

      You have to be a smart ass & provide for a je ne sais quoi factor in your affairs.

  • 1

    Excellent article, the police hardly need an immediate reform … poor salary and unfair treatments dose not give a license to do a wrong however there is a limit which we all of us cross one day and start to justify …so Government should stop before its happening …

  • 0

    Tamils have less griviences compared to other minority’s No one has taken arms except the Tamils Once they break the law of the country they will have to suffer If they need a peaceful country they should not take arms and fight for a separate country. We have IGP’s, Heads of Government departments, ministers and ambassadors who were Tamils

    • 3

      ආදරේ වැඩි කමට! (excessive love) the last refuge of the scoundrel.

      with humanity comes `reasonableness` but sinhala buddhist yakkos play cannibal so I like that stupidity – Appe ratta, appe anduva!

      The tree desires repose, but the wind will not stop;
      The child desires to serve, but his parents are already gone.

    • 3


      “Tamils have less griviences compared to other minority’s No one has taken arms except the Tamils”

      You are right no one should take up arms and accept what is being given to them.

      By the way I take it that you are happy with the majority taking arms to kill, destabilise the state and replace it with a socialist state modelled on North Korea form of dictatorship, not once but twice.

      “Once they break the law of the country they will have to suffer If they need a peaceful country they should not take arms and fight for a separate country.”

      Of course you are right and a good advice, why didn’t I think that way in the first place. Did JVP fight the state and their traitors with, pillows, peacock feathers, bamboo stick, ………?

      “We have IGP’s, Heads of Government departments, ministers and ambassadors who were Tamils”

      Could you name those Heads who have served in various positions from 1 January 1970 to 02 October 2015? Also the date of their appointment.

      Thank you.

  • 0

    This is simply very common in Sri Lanka if you shuttle between few cities…

    I can list down possibly 100s of similar incidents Ive come a cross !As writer says these Policemens plight is appealing to the core & helpless…

    Dont be surprised if you get to hear a Police constable’s annual salary increment is Rs. 158.00 and it can go on upto 18 long years in some cases…

    They are not entitiled for OT either…

    • 0

      so policeman’s every call out is practically for grabbing food not logical analysis.

      very similar to the baldies with begging bowl.

      but the beggar on the street what happens to him??
      do they both drive the beggar away as he has no food to offer?

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