By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
The question whether Police powers be given to Provincial Council has been a hot topic in Sri Lanka. The issue arose because there is suspicion that the Police has not shown any interest in protecting the people, but to protect themselves on account of the pressures applied by the unscrupulous politicians. It appears they are not allowed to perform their duties independently.
It was a common scene that some Police officers were seen without doing anything when properties belonging to Tamils became the target of burning during the civil disturbances and this trend continued to exist when unlawful attacks were launched on the temples, churches and mosques by some satanic organizations. The manner in which political opponents were taken into custody and tortured bear testimony that Police failed to stand up to their highest ethical standard. Moreover, the administrative and disciplinary authority was delegated to the Secretary of Defence by virtue of the 18th Amendment, when, in fact, it should have remained with the IGP. It is this power of issuing command or order which germinates at this juncture for the birth of a totalitarian State. The product of such a situation saw the launching of unlawful attacks on the temples, churches and mosques as aforesaid. No civilized country have ever tolerated their Police watching such hooligans taking the law into their hands. The issue is whether the Police is a close partner in the collapse of democratic institutions, because some Police personnel were involved in the murders of some citizens for want of money in an unlawful manner, demonstrating the lack of service-orientation. It is also questionable whether the Police have concealed truth on account of the pressure from the ruling politicians or their associates, because of the promotion or some respectable jobs after retirement. Further, the manner in which the behaviour of the Police at Hulftsdorp and on the departure of Justice Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake shows the level of corruption that prevailed in the structure of Sri Lanka Police. What is still most astonishing is the link the Police had with underworld criminals who have been utilized for the illegal activities. Sri Lanka has become a notorious country where the rulers contact the Police to release hard core criminals to commit crimes against humanity. The list can be stretched. Such monstrous actions of the Police taking such command from undesirable characters are rare in Federal countries, but common in developing countries like Burma, Pakistan, Bangladesh and some African countries. Such a monstrous command leading to the erosion of democracy and the collapse of Police institutions calls for the establishment of Police at Provincial level in the best interests of the public as a first step.
It appears that the Police in Sri Lanka is politicized and has been at the mercy of the politicians which sends the message of the germination of political terrorism by way of licensing the Police to perpetrate crimes and a death bell to democratic values. The question that arises in everyone’s mind is whether there are any remedies to rectify such notorious occurrences in the structure of Sri Lanka Police. There is a necessity for the Sri Lanka Police to be independent and Sri Lanka has to follow other countries like Canada, UK, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, etc about the smooth policing. The issue is whether Sri Lanka Police is protecting and serving the public.
The motto of the Police in Canada is ‘to protect and to serve’ with ‘Pride’ as it is an honourable job. Every letter within the word ‘PRIDE’ carries lot of weight.
The letter ‘P’ denotes professionalism. The Police will discharge their duties efficiently and diligently after being thoroughly informed and will be humble, kind and considerate in exercising their duties. For instance when there is a dispute within a family, they advise either the husband or wife to walk outside for some time (i.e. about 30 minutes) so that their mind becomes calm and begin to realize their faults within that period.
The letter ‘R’ denotes respect. The Police shows no discrimination and give due respect irrespective of any discrimination as to race, religion, status, etc when they treat every citizen. They are not subject to the pressure of politicians or wealthy persons as found in Sri Lanka.
The letter ‘I’ denotes integrity. The Police is honest and apply the highest ethical standards in discharging their duties. They will not be subject to any undue influence and will not tolerate any form of pressure exerted by politicians or wealthy persons and will not compromise for their benefits.
The letter ‘D’ denotes dignity which means the Police will cherish the civil liberties of all the citizens and protect the human dignity.
Finally, the letter ‘E’ denotes excellence which means the service offered by Police is par excellence. Their communication skill and the manner of implementing their strategy will speak about their achievement.
Canadian Police is proud to have a Police such qualities, whereas Sri Lanka has destroyed the significance that is within the word ‘PRIDE’.
The relations between the Police and the minority groups should be in the highest ethical standards in countries practising pluralism. There is a moral obligation on the Central government to embark on a number of issues relating to Police-minority group relations, which includes the introduction of cross-cultural training. Police officers should be given training about cultural differences and traditions. In Sri Lanka, there are number of instances where the Police have entered into sanctum sanctorum (Karbagraha) of the temples with their boots on and evacuating the priests while performing the religious rites which is contrary to the cultural and religious traditions, thus paving way for misunderstanding and frustration in the minds of the ethnic communities. It is utter disgrace to Sri Lanka when western countries such as Canada participate and gives due protection and significance to religions of other ethnic communities. In spite of all these notorious events, the big idea of boasting that Sri Lanka has 2500 years old Buddhist heritage by unscrupulous politicians has become ridiculous in the eyes of the international community, when they failed to respect other religions when Lord Buddha was himself born Hindu. Police in western democratic countries have demonstrated that education is the manifestation of perfection within man by respecting other’s faith, which is lacking in the minds of the Sri Lankan police.
The maintenance of law and order in the country is a matter of partnership between the community and its Police, which Sri Lankan politicians have failed to realize. Instead the Politicians have shown no interest of this type of partnership – perhaps to discourage identifying the culprits. The murder of a British citizen, arrests of journalists, abductions in vans, etc, are some of the cases in point. Community policing has the force of viewing a way forward, because it requires commitments both by the Police and the public to curb violence of any nature, discouraging illicit drug trafficking, reducing the commission of political assassinations through the underworld criminals finally and ensuring the feeling of security of persons when cases of disappearance has become common. This will reduce the crime to a great extent and identify the law-breakers.
Moreover, there should be public education program which has to be organized by the Police in collaboration with the community, if the community wants to feel secured from fear. Such education program can be staged at school level and at public level by a Provincial Police Division. Thus the Provincial Police fulfills their moral obligation to have systematic consultation with the citizens. It is through this frequent meeting with the public, identification of suspected criminals together with their links become possible. However, the front-line police officers should be provided with facilities as they are engaged in a dangerous exercise in apprehending the suspected criminals for the welfare of the public.
There is provision for the establishment of Provincial Police Forces for each Province by virtue of the Appendix 1 of the Provincial Councils List, which if implemented at that time would have prevented a number of assassinations of prominent figures and ascertained the links of the underworld criminals. The 13th Amendment dealing with Police powers was passed with the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord. The Provincial Councils List has set out the Police powers and all powers in relation to the law and order and empowered to legislate on any matter that are within the purview of the subject of Law and Order. This implies the Provinces has the power to recruit members to the Provincial Police. Scouts and girl-guides as well as those engaged in sports activities are the ideal persons to be selected for Police as they get training to be friendly and helpful to the citizens at schools, public places, etc, and can expect the discipline, dedication and motivation in pursuit of success which are the characteristics of Police. The motto of the Police should be ‘To Protect and to Serve’ which should be clearly written in every Police vehicle as in Canada and in other western democratic countries. Hence a Police performs his or her duty to enforce law and also as mediator, facilitator, relationship-builder, community builder as well as an independent thinker. This does not mean that a specific community have a Provincial Police comprising a specific community. Such constituted Police Force should be viewed on a broader spectrum, as every Province will have a Police Force comprising of all races. It is the Chief Minister of the Province who has the control of the Provincial Police.
Moreover, the main objective of transforming the structure of Police into a National Police and Provincial Police is to check the unlawful activities of the criminals who are sometimes assisted by the politicians. Police is meant to maintain law and order in the country. While the police is regarded as the guardian of the people, he also has a dangerous and unpredictable job of apprehending the criminals in addition to pick up drunkards (whether fallen or not) from the streets or hotels or even at market places, taking undesirable elements masquerading in sensitive places at nights or where helpless citizens (especially women and students) are at shopping malls, hospitals, to investigate brutal scenes of violence. These are the reasons why Police need some cooperation from the public. As such community policing has played a contributory role for the maintenance of peace and order in the country. The purpose of establishing a Provincial Police in each Province is to build a culture of trust with the community to which it serves by way of having an honest dialogue. Community policing is a concept where citizens feel empowered to work in partnership with the Police at solving problems of crimes, fear of crime, disorder quality of life, etc. What is vital is the community engagement and information sharing between the Police and the public in apprehending the criminals who are instrumental for the breach of peace.
Upon a close examination of the Appendix 1 of the Provincial Councils List, it provides the answer to check the unlawful activities of the criminals as well as preventing the Police Officers having links with the criminals by classifying the Sri Lanka Police into National Division and Provincial Divisions. The National Police Division can primarily be responsible for enforcing laws throughout Sri Lanka, while the general law and order including the enforcement of the Penal Code and applicable provincial legislation can be the responsibility of the Provinces. What is distinguishable is the national laws from the general law relating to the criminal matters committed in the Provinces. National Police can monitor the activities in relation to commercial crimes, drug-trafficking, human-trafficking, organized crimes among the Provinces, providing security services to the President, Ministers, Parliamentarians, diplomatic missions and to foreign diplomats and international delegates. Provincial Police can monitor and enforce law and also as mediator, facilitator, relationship-builder, community builder as well as an independent thinker. Provincial Police can have frequent conferences among the Provinces in collaboration with the Head of the National Police promoting mutual understanding and respect for each other. Hence Provincial Police gives an impression to the public that a Police is always a friend and guardian of the public. Countries such as Canada, USA, Brazil, Germany, India, etc, have such Police system which have successfully demonstrated that their Police structure are service-oriented.
The D.I.G. is appointed by the I.G.P in consultation with the Chief Minister of the Province and the D.I.G. is directly under the control of the Chief Minister. However, the control of the Chief Minister is subject to two limitations – namely (i) where the President declares a state of emergency and (ii) where the President orders to deploy any unit of the National Division in aid of civil power to restore security or public order in a province which is threatened by grave internal disturbance.
However, the President’s unlimited power over the National Division can be abused to neutralize the operation of the Provincial Police, which crop up as challenges for the Police which arise in the form of unlawful instructions through his close associates. Even if the Police officer is honest and performs a job according to his conscience in the apprehension of suspected criminals, he is given a transfer by way of punishment, as a result the court finds it difficult to punish the offender. Had there been an independent Judiciary and a powerful Senate to question the validity of the President’s abuse of power on the pretext of deploying the National Division, one can expect the smooth functioning of the Provincial Council like a Provincial government. Had the Provincial Council been empowered by virtue of the Appendix 1 of the Provincial Councils List, number of lives of prominent figures would have been saved. Briefly it can be said that if the Appendix 1 of the Provincial Councils List has been implemented in its true perspective, people would be happy to see the unification of Sri Lanka with good governance.
Classification of National Police and Provincial Police will lead to cherishing of civil liberties and prevent the erosion of democratic values. Any appointment to bring the Police under the Secretary of Defence will eventually lead to dictatorship and prove to be a failed State like Pakistan. It is regret to observe that evil motive or ignorance is exposed in criticizing the establishment of Provincial Police Forces. It should be viewed in the spirit of democracy on a broader spectrum. What is vital is the mission of a Provincial Police Force which will be the promotion of mutual understanding and respect for each other leading to service-orientation and to prevent the deviation of their normal duties of the police in pursuit of personal matters either for themselves (Police) or the unscrupulous politicians. As such, it is the Provincial Police that could fulfill its mission to act as the guardian of the people and to respect the democratic rights and freedom of the citizens while maintaining the law and order, can be achieved by the Provincial Police.