I had 4 passports with me – my US and Sri Lankan passports, and my wife’s. I recall having them last in my office drawer at the Election Commission. They are lost, as are some critical research documents I had such as the President’s B-C (voter registration) forms. Well, police reports are required by the US and Sri Lankan authorities for replacements. I made that dreaded visit to the Jaffna police; dreaded because the Head Quarters Inspector (HQI) Mr. Prasad Fernando and I have had several run-ins. In the last of these I had to go to Colombo to drop off my son at the airport after a PC test. The van owner did all his routine paperwork. However, after Mr. Fernando agreed to give passes, just before signing, he saw my name and refused. I made the trip letting the van driver deal with the police at the several checkpoints on the way showing copies of my son’s ticket. I feel locked-up inside Jaffna.
Day 1 at the Police
It was 21 June, the first day of free movement after 2 weeks. We the public were kept at the gates because of Corona. We were huddled together without privacy. I waited for over an hour. It was both unpleasant to have others hear our complaints but entertaining hearing the cross-talk from others. There was an older Sinhalese policeman who seemed to know no Tamil and a young Tamil girl constable who treated us decently. However, she would speak to members of the public in Sinhalese first and switch to Tamil only if the person did not understand. It was as if to teach us that the language of our Lords is Sinhalese. She would talk to us in Tamil as necessary and interpret to the older policeman who was bordering on the psychiatric. When needing a decision, a member of the public would be told “Mahattayata Kiyanda” – Tell the Lord; to relate the complaint to our Lord, Mahattaya.
My Mahattaya asked me in Sinhalese why I am there. I replied in Tamil. He went berserk as though I were a criminal. Two passports for one person, he asked incredulously! He understood me. It took the Tamil policewoman to explain to him that nowadays multiple passports are possible. All this in front of members of the public.
There were two parties, a young good-looking mother and a dark-skinned couple from Poonahari. She had borrowed Rs. 250,000 from the couple as she admitted but now said she cannot pay because her husband went to Germany and deserted her. The policeman was absolutely nasty to the couple, making another Tamil man waiting to whisper to me, “Once they wear the uniform, they become monsters.” The psychiatric policeman either wanted to ingratiate himself with the good looking mother or had taken a bribe from her. He launched a verbal tirade on the lender in Sinhalese as if he was at fault. I was quite upset after he had almost called me a crook. I asked him sternly in Tamil where he had been trained to speak to the public like that. He understood me perfectly. Pretending not to know Tamil was part of the act of intimidation. Later I saw him speaking in Tamil. After my interjection the man became subdued and walked off to the police station.
Now we had the lady constable to deal with. She was polite but not very intelligent. After I had waited another hour and asked her what the delay was, she said “Periyavar” (Fernando) was reading the complaints and the book would not be back till he is done. Yet awhile later she said it could take as late as 6 pm for the book to come. She also told me I cannot sign for my wife’s loss. She advised to come back in the morning. What time, I asked. In the morning she said again. I told her that morning is from 5 am to noon. She said 9 or 10. I asked whether she would be there and told her I do not want to tell my story all over again to a new person. She promised she would be there.
Day 2 at the Jaffna Police
On the 22nd morning, I was there at 9.00 am with my wife. No one was on duty. It was clear there was no discipline. Unlike in the Kachcheri or Election Commission where there was a time-machine, the police had their leisurely breakfast and drifted in at 10 am and later. The young woman was nowhere to be seen. The complaints book was still missing. Fernando must have been studying it like for an exam.
Fortunately, PC Jayanthan came. He was as different from the others as the day is from night. He got the complaints book. He recorded our complaints. As the HQI was still missing to sign our extracts we were asked to be back by 4 pm. I was not sure if Fernando would again refuse to sign our papers as he had done with the pass. When I went there, we Jayanthan gave us our signed copies to apply for new passports. Poignantly, PC Jayanthan was still working, taking down complaints. HQI Fernando must be made his understudy to learn about work and courtesy.
The Police our Guardians?
They are only in theory. As we know, as reported in the FT (03.06.2021) our IGP, Jayantha Wickramaratne, newly confirmed by the Police Commission, is not blemish free. At least two senior police officers have provided statements to the CID, claiming that Wickramaratne allegedly issued directives to confiscate and destroy the murdered journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge’s notebook. In March 2018, Wickramaratne obtained an interim order preventing his arrest in the Lasantha Wickrematunge murder case from the Supreme Court. The International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) also condemned Wickramaratne’s appointment at the Office of Missing Persons, saying it “completed” the militarisation of mechanisms established to deliver transitional justice in the aftermath of Sri Lanka’s protracted civil war. Continuing to quote FT, Yasmin Sooka said that as IGP, Wickramaratne had been in charge of three police units named by the United Nations investigation as involved in mass enforced disappearances at the end of the war, and was now tasked with investigating the disappearances himself. I believe he was appointed because of these lapses under the Twentieth Amendment to have an obedient police chief.
I have myself written about Wickramaratne ignoring Election Commission warnings that the police in Mullaitivu were not serving the stay order on Gnanasara Thero’s gang not to conduct a monk’s funeral at a Hindu Temple in Chemmalai. On the eve of elections we were concerned about law and order.
This is a man at the apex of law enforcement. He can prevent any investigation including into possibly criminal acts by him. The Court of Appeal ruling on Shani Abeysekera shows how untrustworthy and crooked our police are. In a particular incident where I had tangled with the police, the judicial officer sent me a private message through his relation and my friend: “Be careful. They can entrap you in anything.”
ASP S.P. Kankanamge
My friend Sarath Pushpakumara Kankanamge was a police officer who worked under me when the then IGP terminated him. He was a scientist who joined the police because he loved computer science and his father wanted his son to follow him in the police. When his father fell out with that IGP, Sarath was posted to unrelated work in the war zone. Sarath gave a medical certificate and was terminated. As the IGP could not fault the medical certificate, the Public Service Commission ordered Sarath’s reinstatement. The IGP locked up the order and ignored it. After the IGP retired, Kankanamge had to report to the North but was paid back-wages. He had doubled his pay – from the police and the Open University.
Kankanamge told me that as ASP he was asked to clear the personal belongings of an officer killed by the LTTE. He found tons of cash in the deceased officer’s mattress. That is how profitable postings in the North are to Sinhalese officers. His experience shows a long line of IGPs including the last one, Pujith Jayasundara, operating outside the law. How do they uphold the law?
In Jaffna the HQI does not even obey the orders of the Human Rights Commission to show up for my case on his forcing me to remove my guests, refugees from Afghanistan who had fled their home near Negombo as Sinhalese mobs attacked them following 21 April. A measure of how scared Tamils are is that Ven. Sam Ponniah, Archdeacon of Jaffna who asked me to host the refugees, was too scared to be listed as witness. The HRC itself seems toothless. In Jaffna at a petrol shed I was in line and the HQI’s car came and honked as the attendant shouted at me to allow the police car to come to the front. I refused. Realising who I was the car reversed and sped away. The lawless are asked to uphold the law.
72 years of being Yoked to the Sinhalese
We Tamils have been yoked to the Sinhalese for 72 years. We were tops in education. Today the Northern Province is ranked no. 9 of 9.
The latest statistics from the Finance Commission is shown in the Table here. We are the least populous of the 9 provinces, we contribute the least to the nation’s GDP and have the highest poverty level. This has implications for the power widelded by Tamils in Parliament. We have lost our voice in parliament. There are three reasons for this. First, thanks to government discrimination and Mr. V. Prabhakaran’s war against the state, Tamils, especilly Tamils of quality with the means and connexions to flee, have left in large numbers. Secondly Tamil quislings who crept into Parliament sometimes winning a seat with 9 votes. When Prabahakaran forbade Tamils from voting and made financial deals with the government to not let Tamils vote, these quislings were empowered with ministerial appoinments that they used to distribute jobs. This has eaten the vote of parties looking after Tamil interests.
If we remain yoked, we will be nobodies soon as the state continues to move Sinhalese into traditional Tamil homelands – Myliddy, Navatkuli, Mullaitivu,the Northern tip of the Eastern Province. It is not a kindly state nor are sinhalese settlers nice to us.
The two police people who were true guardians of Tamils are PC Jayanthan and the woman constable; both Tamils. Jayanthan I am sure is more qualified to be HQI than Fernando. He is sensitive to our needs and does not play God.
Parliament is the supreme body and embodies our sovereignty they say. Parliament through the Thirteenth Amendment has devolved police and land powers to the provinces. A bunch of lawless thugs are defying parliament and keeping those powers away from us, the province, powers that can vastly improve our lives with Tamil policemen enforcing our land powers.
The world must take note.