|The need for an independent Police Commission
Opposition Leader Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe has called upon the government to take three steps to prevent the occurrence of Mawanella type incidents. Firstly he wants the government to take action against the politicians who extended patronage to the elements responsible for the clashes. Secondly, he wants orders given to the police to act promptly to prevent communal violence, free from political interference. Thirdly, he wants the victims of violence compensated adequately .
As Mr. Wickremesinghe points out it is political patronage given to criminals that has rendered the police ineffective. Soon after the PA formed government in 1994, it was reported, the party leadership in keeping with the political tradition of the country, asked the ruling party parliamentarians to name the police officer they wanted in charge of police stations in their areas. Therefore, police officers so appointed must be under obligations to their political bosses as manifest in their actions. This is not to deny that there are officers of integrity in the department. Yet, naturally the pressure on them is too much for them to break free and act independently.
That the nexus between politicians and the police has prevented the law being enforced without fear or favour is too well known to merit elaboration. It may have been the loyalty of some police officers in Mawanella to the ruling party politicians whose storm troopers set the township ablaze, that aggravated an otherwise extortionist-related clash. Mr. Wickreme-singhe rightly says, "The Mawanella clash was not communal. According to information I have, armed supporters of a minister were responsible for the initial act."
The police must be rid of political interference as Mr. Wickremesinghe suggests.
Ironically, even under the UNP the police gave a free rein to underworld elements in 1983, when they unleashed communal violence in Colombo and several other areas. The mobs were allegedly led by the then ruling party politicians and the police just looked the other way until the situation went out of their control.
One is also reminded of the controversial promotion given to the police officer who assaulted the legendary Red firebrand, Mrs. Vivienne Goonewardene, even after she had successfully fought a legal battle against him. Presidential pardon was also given to convicted criminals under the UNP.
However, as the Opposition Leader says, police inaction caused violence to spread in Mawanella. Deputy Minster of Defence General Anuruddha Ratwatte himself has owned up, in Parliament, to the fact that there were lapses on the part of the police and this caused violence to spread.
The Kegalle SP and ASP have been transferred out immediately over these allegations, it is reported.
Lapses or no lapses, these officers would have been transferred anyway. What would have been their fate had they arrested the supporters of the politician in question and doused the flames of violence? They would have been transferred the following day for acting against the ruling party, like the brave police officer who carried out his duties without fear or favour during the last general election in Kandy. General Ratwatte must be knowing better than anyone else why this senior officer was transferred out of Kandy.
Paradoxically, while these two police officers have been transferred on allegations of lapses, the politician accused of being behind the incident has gone scot free. Is it that the government is wary of taking action against him in view of the Motion of No Confidence the Opposition is planning to move against it shortly?
The police are obviously under tremendous pressure from politicians and are therefore unable to perform their duties. There are reports of ruling party law makers storming police stations and forcibly securing release of their loyal law breakers making a mockery of the law.
It is no exaggeration that the country is teetering on the brink of lawlessness with the backbone of the police having been broken by politicians and their goons. It is time a concerted effort was made and a viable solution found.
What the Mawanella incident and the pathetic failure of the police to bring the situation under control in time, point to is the need to immediately set up the much-talked-about Independent Police Commission.
Your comments to the Editor
|NEWS | FEATURES | OPINION | BUSINESS | CARTOON | SPORTS | SATMAG|