By Tassie Seneviratne –
The Sunday Observer of December 6 2020 carried in its front page in banner headlines, a news item in regard to the Easter Sunday attacks; “INVESTIGATIONS TO BE COMPLETED SOON,” quoting the Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral (Retd.) Sarath Weerasekera (MSW) telling Parliament that he would personally meet the Attorney General to review the progress of the case and look into the progress of the legal action against the suspects held responsible for the eight multiple terror attacks on Easter Sunday last year.
What a howler! Police investigation into crime is not like buying homeware in the market. Police investigation into crime, under the Code of Criminal Procedure, is carried out with a view to eliciting evidence to prove the case in a court of law. This generally entails surveillance, engagement of informants, meticulous search of the scene of crime for contact evidence and a host of other evidence depending on the nature of the crime, interrogation of suspects and gleaning the statements of suspects and witnesses etc. until a breakthrough is made. As to when and where the break through is made cannot be forecast. In this scenario it would take an ignoramus to state that the investigation will be completed soon.
The public stand in awe as they have waited for so long in disquiet for action from that fateful Easter day. Much has happened. And much has not happened over the time to check progress of action in the case. Along with the normal law, a Presidential Commission (PC) has been looking into the same matter with the same witnesses and evidence, in parallel. The effect of the latter on the regular crime investigation is not clear. The Attorney General (AG) has however to consider the relevance of the PC proceedings on the crime investigation to determine indictment. There is quite a mix of issues for the AG to consider in making progress of action in the case.
Into the jumble steps in MSW, unabashed and brazen. The public keep watching with anxiety. The point of this article is based on the questions the public ask in whispers. The action of MSW, loudly announced, has the reechoing sound of a Fast Action craft (FAC) in his search of progress. This may not ring well with the AG whose degree in law and jurisprudence will not be able to deal with a FAC approach. There may not be the even keel. It is not clear then how MSW will figure out the progress MSW is looking for, and with what competence! In the end, the meeting will end up in nothing that MSW can report back to Parliament.
The relevance of all this is to Law and Order. This is basically a matter for the Police, the Law, the AG and the Criminal Justice System (CJS). The public are now quiet, accustomed to interference with the CJS at all levels, from top to bottom. The concern of this column is with Law and Order as serves the public. Law and Order is now beyond sixes and sevens that serves some, not the public. This article is just to cite this most recent instance of outside intervention, for the benefit of public knowledge and for the information of the Police who work in these circumstances. MSW is now the Minister over the Police. It is unfortunate if MSW is unable to set the correct tone for the Police. The whole system is now replete with these examples.
The point here is that such interference and intervention, in whatever form it comes, is none but bribery and corruption. None of this involvement is for the Public good, for Justice and Morality, for the Common good of Law and Order. None of these values are remunerative or bring in a return. About this, it is only a statement in the media that I make, that prior to 1977 there was not a single political leader who was corrupt. Since then it is just the reverse. It is difficult to see even the public statements of MSW in any other light.
MSW might have avoided all this had he done the meeting with the AG discreetly and with circumspection. But discretion and caution taking much into account are not in the menu of MSW. For such is not the way of a military mind thrown into such situations. Their attitudes are, for example, as at Ratupaswala, at Prisons and other places where the capacity and finesse required are of a different order. The problem is not that MSW is himself an ignoramus. The tone he sets, affecting others such as the Police, is pathetic. This is unfortunate. And the added fact is that it is this type of attitude that comfortably suits his superiors. Superiors have little other use of this subordinate stupidity so long as they serve their superiors’ purpose. MSW is not alone here if other experts too are also used in much this same way. The problem is, then, not in the stars, but in ourselves, as we are only ‘underlings’.
*The writer is a Retired Senior Superintendent of Police.