By Malinda Seneviratne –
About a year ago, a highly respected police officer, previously attached to the STF but at the time the Officer in Charge of the Crimes Division of the Wellawaya Police, died under tragic and mysterious circumstances. DIG Dinana was known to have been an uncompromising fighter against cannabis (ganja) growers and traffickers. He led a team of men 20km deep into the Hambegamuwa jungles and while destroying a ganja chena, according to ‘witnesses’ had been taken unawares by a falling tree, lost balance and fallen on the alavanguva he had been holding. The heavy, pointed iron rod is said to have gone in through his neck and out from the other side of his head.
Now, that is a tall story if ever there was one. Drugs is a big business and especially in this particular area. If bucks control politics then it is quite possible that both politicians as well as state authorities come under pressure to ‘let be’. One year later, another officer who too has declared war on drugs in the area, DIG Moneragala, N.I.R. Latheef, is coming under fire from local politicians. Is there a connection? We cannot say for sure.
One thing is certain. DIG Latheef has spared no pains to combat illegal treasure hunting, drugs and illegal sand mining. He has had to contend with politician-backers of those engaged in illegal activities. He has stood firm. So too has IGP N. K. Illangakoon, also formerly of the STF, who has strongly defended measures taken by the Moneragala Police.
Appointments, promotions, transfers, suspensions and termination are often based on political considerations. Police officers are promoted or transferred as reward and punishment, respectively, before and after elections. That’s been common practice by ruling parties over the last several decades. ‘Loyalty’ is noted. Its lack is not unnoticed. At the local level there are instances where honest officers are considered a nuisance. Those who are blind and those who are happy to look away are clearly preferred by errant politicians or those whose political future is dependent on wrongdoers who fund their election campaigns.
The same goes for other officials. A casual threat works most times. Lubrication too. When these things don’t yield desired results, then ‘transfer’ is an option. Vilification also works. There are many ways to harass.
DIG Latheef is not running for political office. He seems to be a decent police officer. He seems to be doing his job. When an honest police officer does his job the only people who can get hot under the collar are those who are dishonest and crooked. When cries are raised for the lynching of a good officer, then it is prudent to investigate the doings of the criers.
The politicians, ‘duty bound’ perhaps, are now clamoring for Latheef’s transfer. They will leave no stone unturned, they say. They will protest, they will petition. Police officers are not politicians. They have to do their duty, and some of them die in the line of duty. They cannot purchase politicians and they cannot purchase supporters. Sure, not all of them are exactly saints for there are innumerable occasions when officers have been caught napping and more, but there cannot be any doubt that the Latheefs of the Police Department need to be supported. And protected. If politicians will not, the people must.