30 September, 2020

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Law Enforcement & The Security Services: Politicisation & Demoralisation

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Law Enforcement and the Security Services: Politicisation and Demoralisation – 1 – Introduction

O may it ever be my Fate
Justly those sacred Truths to rate;
And those blest Laws that have their Rise From Wisdom lodged above the Skies, Those which the Olympian King alone Dictates from his eternal Throne, (Unlike to those weak mortals frame),
Live unabolished, still the same!
Sprung from the God, replete with heavenly Fire, They baffle Time, and keep their strength entire

– Sophocles, Athenian poet (lived circa 496 – 406 BC), from The Punishment of Sin

“True law is Reason, right and natural, commanding people to fulfil their obligations and prohibiting and deterring them from doing wrong. Its validity is universal; it is unchangeable and eternal. Its commands and prohibitions apply effectively to good men and have no effect on bad men. Any attempt to supercede this law, to repeal any part of it, is sinful; to cancel it entirely is impossible. Neither the Senate nor the Assembly can exempt us from its demands; we need no interpreter or expounder of it but ourselves. There will not be one law at Rome or one at Athens, or one now and one later, but all the nations will be subject all the time to this one changeless everlasting law; and one God will be shared by all of us, our master and our ruler – God who invented and instituted this law and arbitrates its operation. Whoever does not obey Him, will be trying to escape from himself, will be rejecting his own human nature; and precisely for that reason, even if he avoids what is usually considered punishment, he will suffer the most terrible penalties of all.”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero (lived 106 – 43 BC), Roman statesman and jurist

From the late 1970s in particular, politicisation has crucially affected all arms of the security services. The political authority intervened directly in promotions, appointments and the internal administration of the services. Officers willing to countenance and co-operate with lawlessness on behalf of the political authority were rewarded. A police officer willing to toe the line in Colombo can amass extraordinary wealth unhindered.

Among the top officers in the Army, the common standard of respect for the Law was replaced by arrogance – the arrogance of unrestrained power. It had its nemesis in creating adversaries who were the mirror image of itself. What of the exceptions and those who wanted to keep their honour and integrity? What of those who cared about the institution and the fate of the rank and file? What of the officers who had a burden for the men being pushed into killing fields to pay the price of crass arrogance at the top? They had to suffer and their experiences bring out the tragedy with certain poignancy. These developments parallel the general degradation of state structures.

To be continued.. Next week The Police

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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