10 December, 2019

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It’s An Evil World And We Need Strict Rules!

By Uvindu Kurukulasuriya

Uvindu Kurukulasuriya

Have you ever been subjected to ‘stop and search’ by the British police? Here is a conversation which took place in a ‘police stop and search’ exercise.

How are you sir?

I’m fine, thanks and how are you?

We are good, where are you from sir?

I’m from Wood Green.

What are you doing here, sir?

I’m just visiting.

Any identification sir?

(Checking the identification)

Don’t lie sir, you are from Sri Lanka.

I’m not lying. Yes, I was born in Sri Lanka, but I live in Wood Green. I’m visiting  Hammersmith.

How did you come to this country? By plane? Lorry? Ship? Train? By boat or swimming?

This is the conversation two police officers had with me in front of Hammersmith Broadway underground. I was waiting for a friend in front of the Broadway underground. Two white police officers approached me and checked my identity with the above conversation. After the conversation or the so-called search was completed, they gave me a receipt with all my biological details. Interestingly, there is reason for checking. It says “Gentleman was standing outside Broadway underground; welfare-check conducted”.  Is it a reason for a police check? Is standing in front of a railway station a crime?

Section 60 of the 1994 Public Order Act was originally brought in to tackle people going to illegal raves. It gave police the power, if they feared violence or disorder, to stop and search suspects at a specific time and place. Stops carried out under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 have already been dropped after the European court of human rights struck them down.

On and off, I have been living in London for nearly 6 years, though that was the only time I was subjected to a police stop and search operation. I’m still angry over this incident. Look at the questions they asked. This is clearly racism. The police treated me in a humiliating and degrading way when I was searched. The police verbally insulted me. I wonder what it’d be like if it happened every day? This story is an example of the xenophobic attitude of elements of the British police towards immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. It is racial profiling. It’s as fundamental as that. It is based on sight, suspicion and fear. It’s a systematic pattern. I have seen this in Sri Lanka against ethnic minorities.

A couple of months after I was harassed by the police, in March 2010, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released its report on the police stop and search operation with shocking data. It starts as:  “if you are a black person, you are at least six times as likely to be stopped and searched by the police in England and Wales as a white person. If you are Asian, you are around twice as likely to be stopped and searched as a white person.”

The report found a rise in the percentage of ethnic minorities among those stopped under Section 60 between 2008 and 2011, from 51 to 64%. The EHRC said that through Section 60 alone, ethnic minorities underwent more than 100,000 excessive searches over the 2008-2011 period. Simon Woolley, a Commissioner at the EHRC, said; “Our research shows black youths are still being disproportionately targeted, and without a clear explanation as to why, many in the community will see this as racial profiling.”

In June 2010, in another report, the justice ministry’s publication Race and the Criminal Justice says; “the number of black and Asian people stopped and searched by the police has increased by more than 70% over the past five years”

Various explanations have been put forward as to why the police use the stop and search powers so disproportionately against certain groups. Even taken together, however, they provide no justification for the extent and persistence of the problem, the report said.

The Commission questioned one common explanation, that is; black people are generally more often involved in crime is not supported by robust evidence. In any case, stops and searches should be carried out on the basis of ‘reasonable suspicion’. It is unlawful for the police to base their suspicions on generalised beliefs about particular groups.

In its recommendation the EHRC says; “For those forces who have demonstrated the most significant and persistent disproportionalities and excesses, we intend to take more immediate action. Following publication, we will be contacting several forces who have demonstrated the most significant and persistent disproportionalities and excesses, with a view to taking enforcement action under the Race Equality Duty, if necessary.”

The EHRC report concludes: “The evidence points to racial discrimination being a significant reason why black and Asian people are more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. It implies that stop and search powers are being used in a discriminatory and unlawful way.” It finds little merit in arguments advanced to justify excessive use of stop- and search operations against ethnic minority Britons and questions how frequently some forces use the power.

Despite years of debate and several initiatives aimed at tackling the problem, these ratios have stayed stubbornly high. Why is that?

The role of the media is crucial to the further strengthening of an anti-racist society in UK, where cultural diversity is valued and respected. As a journalist I would like to examine briefly the role of the media and its contributions to establish the stereotype -Immigrants/Refugees/Asylum seekers/Blacks/Asians/non-whites are criminals.

The wars around the world have created a wave of refugees. Some have crossed the borders and live in terrible conditions in other countries, others are internally displaced persons who simply no longer have homes and no independent lives of their own. In many places, long-time residents who are themselves struggling to adjust to life under often harsh conditions have not welcomed their presence. Politicians often seek to bolster their popularity by promoting resentment against them among the local population (Media Diversity Institute 2002). Politicians’ remarks on asylum seekers and immigrants are both selective and power-serving. While the actual demographic and economic effects of immigration on the UK are rarely discussed, the causes of immigration – global inequality, conflict and human rights abuses – are ignored. Irrespective of party, leading politicians repeatedly highlight issues of exclusion – fears of ‘invasion’, alleged ‘threats’ and actual prejudices – ensuring a very negative image of immigrants. Concerns over crime, disease, terrorism, detention and surveillance are consistently pushed well to the fore. This lack of balance can be attributed to a number of factors, including the existence of a covert racist ideology and the political expediency of ‘the race card’ – factors that repeatedly compromise the welfare of refugees and immigrants. Honest consideration of asylum and immigration issues should involve a far more diverse range of topics, reflecting the complexity of contemporary national and global relations. These include issues of nationalism, sovereignty, racism, demography, human rights, arms sales, war, refugee health, economic policy and moral responsibility. But does this happen?

We all know the case of the Rochdale sex crime gang. , The gang was a group of men who preyed on under-age teenage girls in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, England. They were convicted of sex trafficking on 8 May 2012; other offences included rape, trafficking girls for sex and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.  47 girls were identified as victims of child sexual exploitation during the police investigation. The men were all British Pakistanis (except for one from Afghanistan, an asylum seeker) and the girls were white; this has led to national discussion of whether the crimes were racially motivated, or, conversely, whether the early failure to investigate them was linked to the authorities’ fear of being accused of racism (Wikipedia). Almost all mainstream media covered the story and debated on white victims – non-white criminals issue. Now even the Rochdale sex crime gang has a Wikipedia page!

Two months later in Derby, England on 13 July 2012, eight men were convicted of plying “vulnerable” teenage girls with alcohol, drugs and gifts before paying them for sex. Fifteen girls aged 13 to 15, many of them in care, were preyed on by the men. And though they were not working as a gang, their methods were similar to those of the Rochdale sex crime gang  – often targeting children in care and luring them with, among other things, cuddly toys. In this case, of the eight predators, seven were white, not Asian. And the story made barely a ripple in the national media. Of the daily papers, only The Guardian and The Times reported it. There was no commentary anywhere on how these crimes throw a light on British culture, or how middle-aged white men have to confront the deep flaws in their religious and ethnic identity. ( Guardian July 23, 2012)Yet that’s exactly what was played out following the conviction in May of the “Asian sex gang” in Rochdale, which made the front page of every national newspaper. Though analysis of the case focused on how big a factor was race, religion and culture, the unreported story is of how politicians and the media have created a new racial scapegoat. In fact, if anyone wants to study how racism begins, and creeps into the consciousness of an entire nation, they need look no further.

One story is reported and the other is not. Is it the media’s job to take sides? Or to take on a tone of outrage and offence then encourage its readers, listeners and viewers to join in an orchestrated campaign of hate against non-white people? The media is one of the many agencies for policing organisational life, although with a much wider mandate and field than most other agencies. When such an agency works unprofessionally and establishes stereotypes such as ‘Asian criminals’, there’s a moral message for the nation to take on board: “It’s an evil world and we need strict rules”.

When the law requires reasonable suspicion of involvement in crime, black and Asian people are more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. So, the police are checking the ‘evils’!

*Uvindu Kurukulasuriya is a Sri Lankan journalist living in exile. He is also a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science and an academic consultant to the Silent University. This essay, which was first published by the Tate, was based on a lecture given by him at Tate Modern in December 2012.

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    Ranil the serial sucker to the West who is pleading to the Colonials to punish the poor inhabitants should organise a half day workshop at Sirikothan for his adoring fans.to discuss this article,

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    Uvindu, has a Policeman in Sri Lanka ever called you `Sir’? Do Policemen in UK take suspected criminals to places where the latter have buried or concealed otherwise deadly weapons and shoot them down ‘in self- defense’ when they (suspects) turn the unearthed weapon on Police? Do suspects hang themselves in Police cells in UK? Do they manhandle people who stage street demonstrations? Would a traffic Policemen there let go a traffic offender when a greenback is squeezed into his palm? Are dissidents white-vanned in UK? One reading your article may take you for a proverbial Utopian who has just migrated to UK!

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      Uvindu, has a Policeman in Sri Lanka ever called you `Sir’?
      >> Perhaps not Sir but “Mahatmaya” many times..

      Do Policemen in UK take suspected criminals to places where the latter have buried or concealed otherwise deadly weapons and shoot them down ‘in self- defense’ when they (suspects) turn the unearthed weapon on Police?

      >>Yes they have and even worse.. read below.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/document/document_20060710.shtml

      “…A Company of the The 5 th Battalion of the King’s African Rifles were commanded by the now notorious British officer, Major Gerry Griffiths. Griffiths, who was also a Kenyan settler, bore a deep grudge towards the local Kikuyu tribe after blaming one of them for killing his horse. He even went as far as offering rewards for shooting them. He told his men that should they happen to kill a Kikuyu who was employed by the government or a civilian firm, they could always stick a panga knife in his dead hand to make it look like he was a Mau Mau fighter…”

      Do suspects hang themselves in Police cells in UK?

      >> Read below
      http://www.policeombudsman.org/modules/reports/reports.cfm/CatId/1/ID/36/action/detail

      Do they manhandle people who stage street demonstrations?
      >> Read below. The man wasnt even a demonstrator but he was beaten to death.

      http://www.iantomlinsonfamilycampaign.org.uk

      Would a traffic Policemen there let go a traffic offender when a greenback is squeezed into his palm?

      >> We dont know. But the Leveson Inquiry found that they took money from Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World in exchange for confidential information.

      Are dissidents white-vanned in UK?
      >> But defence lawyers of IRA suspects are gunned down in cold blood by shady people with connections to the security forces.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20662412

      One reading your article may take you for a proverbial Utopian who has just migrated to UK!

      >> Perhaps we should just recognise that the Law and Order enforcement agencies simply adapt to the Law and Order environment. And if there is a requirement for it, nothing in general is “off the table”.

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    He. he. heeee. Mister Uvidu K. Now you’re feeling the heat of white man’s free country.

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    Some observations:

    Ostensibly being polite “sir” has more sting, while subjecting the person to these humiliations, and they know it well.

    And I presume I am not pushing the arguments too far, if I suggest that reading carefully, the references in media including BBC, to the nurse who felt “isolated” & “lonely” just after taking that prank call, and finally couldn’t handle the so called “humiliation” and took her life has some connection.

    what actually happen to a migrant person covered in those euphemisms “isolated” and “lonely” in a hospital staff context with intense media attention on that call, have sledgehammer effects, where staff members could needle that lonely person with “you must be feeling terrible” again and again…just like policemen calling a brown guy “sir” and in the same breath adding “don’t lie”…..

    did the hospital management take her as one of their “own” and gave counseling or any other moral support and until it was too late ..why no actual circumstances, including that note to family wasn’t even existing according to this kind of probing media…until several days went by

    And that’s while BBC had front page news that sydney radio station prankers were devastated…

    Is it a mere coincidence that this nurse was of indian origin and felt that way in spite of being part of a close family with 2 teeenage kids and pushed over the wall..?

    yes, compared to what’s going on in many other countries being hammered with RPGs and pistol butts on your face this kind of needling is nothing …….for some…it’s like if you want to hear/see/feel under the veneer of politeness it’s all there…including at so called temples of freedom and equality.

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    Racism exists in many societies irrespective of East West or North South divide and strong racial attitudes are prevalent in the West/North than perhaps the other way around. Here there are historical reasons associated with racism because of colonialism and/or development or racial theories that became part of their culture. In the past it was a superior inferior dynamic. However, in the context of economic decline it would turn into xenophobia and even a competition.

    In the East and the South it is more of a competition and tribal instinct for exclusion. But more open conflicts are prevalent in the South due to poverty and economic competition. The media is definitely a carrier of racism and xenophobia as Uvindu has clearly analysed. Family upbringing and education are perhaps the breeders.

    Some people opine there can be a natural tendency to distinguish ‘we’ and ‘they.’ But this tendency is harmful for modern living, necessarily interdependent and overlapping. That is why awareness, education and laws are necessary. This is one task of human rights. The media could and should play a major role. About prejudices, by essence irrational, let me quote Rudyard Kipling’s “The Stranger.”

    The Stranger within my gates,
    He may be true or kind,
    But he does not talk my talk –
    I cannot feel his mind.
    I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
    But not the sole behind.

    The men of my own stock
    They may do ill or well,
    But they tell the lies I am wanted to,
    They are used to the lies I tell;
    And we do not need interpreters
    When we go to buy and sell.

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    …it’s the same situation…bloody worse if you are a Tamil in Sri Lanka.

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      of course, Grass is always green in TamilNadu..your homeland.
      I rest my case.

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        Dear polsambola,
        Why is it that you and most Sinhalese assume that if someone points out a mistake about Sri Lanka, that the person is either a Tamil or an LTTE supporter?

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    Same thing is happening in Jaffna today. The law governing the Tamils is called the PTA.

    DETENTION AND RESTRICTION ORDERS
    9.(1) Where the Minister has reason to believe or suspect that any person is connected with or concerned in any unlawful activity, the Minister may order that such person be detained for a period not exceeding three months in the first instance, in such place and subject to such conditions as may be determined by theMinister, and any such order may be extended from time to time for a period not
    exceeding three months at a time: Provided, however, that the aggregate period ofsuch detention shall not exceed a period of eighteen months.

    (5) An order made by the Minister under subsection (1) shall be final and shall not be called in question in any court or tribunal by way of writ or otherwise.

    No laws apply to such people detained by the TID. Minister decides. It is hard to believe that we have such laws in our statute. Pure unadulterated evil.

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    Please note our comment language is English, this comment was removed by a moderator. – CT

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    Uvindu K is a journalist who fled sri lanka soon after his friend Lasantha Wickrematuga was killed on the road in broad daylight.
    He should count his blessings a few of which are – noone is abducted/whitevanned/tortured/assaulted in police stations & prisons/noone is arrested secretly and held incommunicado/noone is without a lawyer as one is povide by the state if he or she is unable to get one/all are interrogated by law enforcement in the presence of counsel.
    Racism is there in the west,covertly,but there is even a Race Relations Act and tribunals under same.
    Professionals who have lived,studied & worked in UK have never encountered racism.

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    Uvindu coorectly asserts that despite the veneer of politeness, there lies a vindictive, xenophobic, jealous, resentful, prejudiced, patronising, condescending, racist, undercurrent to those in “White” countries where the “others” must necessarily be from poor, third world and “terrorist” countries.

    You see, they didn’t like 9-11 one bit, although their forces had repeatedly, over the decades conducted massacres thousands of times more deadlier that 9-11. Hence the genocide of two million absolutely innocent Iraqis from 2003 until recently, for example.

    Those precious “white” people, who are “respected” when they visit the “poor” countries as exalted beings, do the direct opposite when the poor come to their lands. This sort of experience is not isolated, not limited to the UK, and seem to be true in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, US etc.

    While I respect Laksiri’s comments above, I feel that one cannot compare racism when it is among dark-skinned, to when there is a colour difference in “western” countries.

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    Uvindu’s experience with London Police is interesting. But Uvidu admits that during last 6 years, it is only one time he has to face this bad experience. I do not think that Uvindu should get offended so much for this harmless short conversation with Police Officers. There are large number of refugees or illegal immigrants from third world countries, flooding to developed countries like UK and Canada daily. It is quite natural for Citizens of these countries to have a prejudice against us. This is further aggravated by the fact that blacks are involved in majority of the robberies and violence in these countries. In Canada one of the black MP’s once suggested that it is perfectly alright for police to check blacks who are traveling at night. I do not say this racial discrimination is correct. But for our own safety I do not complain if I am subjected to a similar check I would always imagine what kind of treatment I could expect in Sri Lanka, from the Police if someone makes a bogus allegation or charge or if I am not in good books of any government politician or policeman in Sri Lanka.
    Nowhere in the world have we can find an excellent and ideal Police force/Public Service or Government. The quality of the service depends on the employees and the stringent rules and regulations and guidelines for the employees. It is quite possible to have bad eggs in anywhere. But the good thing is in developed countries, there is the highly alert and free media which will not hesitate to expose any kind of racism. Police or Politicians will not be able to influence the media. This is the very thing lacking in Sri Lanka and most of other developing countries.

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      Mr Mahen Silva,
      You should read what Uvindu says first, You say “This is further aggravated by the fact that blacks are involved in majority of the robberies and violence in these countries.”
      Can you provide statistics to prove your claim?

      Uvindu says;

      In June 2010, in another report, the justice ministry’s publication Race and the Criminal Justice says; “the number of black and Asian people stopped and searched by the police has increased by more than 70% over the past five years”

      Various explanations have been put forward as to why the police use the stop and search powers so disproportionately against certain groups. Even taken together, however, they provide no justification for the extent and persistence of the problem, the report said.

      The Commission questioned one common explanation, that is; black people are generally more often involved in crime is not supported by robust evidence.

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    Of course this world is evil.Not only because of what happened to you but because of what’s happening around every part of the world.The
    world has fallen victim in the hands of money and power and don’t be
    surprised to find ourselves longing to be part and parcel of the trend.
    This is where MR wants us to belong to,this is where Ranil wants to
    belong to,Somawansa and even Sobitha Hamuduruwo wants us to go to.But
    the world has different plans and has the means to tell us where we
    belong to.What respect we receive from our own officials and each other
    as citizens,is not any secret in this internet age.

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    If you’re unlucky enough to spend time in Police custody in the UK (you know the place? The heavenly land of freedom, law and ‘accountability’ from where so many people emerge to lecture Sri Lanka), things aren’t much better than in Sri Lanka.

    Deaths in police custody since 1998: 333
    Police officers convicted: 0 (none)

    http://tinyurl.com/2cr5qnk

    24 people died in UK police custody in 2008. At least 102 black and ethnic minority people have died in police custody in the past 16 years. So in the UK if you’re black or asian, you’ve got more to fear from the Police than the BNP!

    http://tinyurl.com/9ttpnt

    And this in a country currently at peace rather than one that had survived a 30 year war. Having said that, the police is SL is more corrupt, inefficient and generally more racist than in the UK.

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    If not happy with UK, then why did you came? Why don’t you all not happy with UK or any other country go back to Sri Lanka and live the way you make happy and safe!

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    During the 2011 riots in london and other cities by hooligans,the unarmed british police contained the rioters,traced & charged over a thousand in courts.Varying degrees of punishment were imposed.
    In the 2012 london riots by students over increase of fees for education,the unarmed police again contained the situation.Students who damaged and attacked the car in which Prince Charles and Dutchess of Cornwall were travelling,were pulled off and the car and occupants proceeded.
    What would have happened if students stopped and attacked a car of the president’s entourage or one the other VVIPs’ cars?
    I dread to contemplate.
    In both riots UNARMED police contained the riots. This never has happened in sri lanka.
    When will Law Enforcement be done similarly in sri lanka?
    If what happened at Welikada Prison recently,had happened in UK,all the shooters would by now be in prison,pending hearings in courts.

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    …does this happen in the UK?

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    Great piece of writings.

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    While I do not condone the racist profiling of law-enforcement authorities in the UK and or negative portrayal of the people of colour in British media, I still believe that that there is a substantial difference between the crimes perpetrated by organized gangs and those committed by individuals. Both cannot be compared.

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    No Uvindu, check the crime rates in the UK on ethnic ratio. Then you’ll understand. I don’t blame the British Police.

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