Expedite appointment of Police Commission

The killing of a ‘millionaire businessman’ of Kotte, Don Chandrananda alias Club Wasantha, on Saturday night at the bar of Chandra Silva Stadium at Jayawardenepura, Kotte by three unidentifed gunmen is a rude reminder to the complacent middle class and the affluent that criminalisation of society and politics is not only still with us, but is rising.

The killing took place at Kotte-Jayawardenepura, the fastest growing suburb of Colombo where a prosperous middle class is settling down. The dead man is known to have had connections with high ranking politicians as well as with the underworld. The storming of the bar by three unidentifed gunmen, opening fire on the victim and the escape in a car followed by another car has all the elements that local TV producers could have wished for. All this indicates that crime in this country is becoming as modernised and sophisticated as in the west - unfortunately a rare instance of Sri Lankan endeavours reaching western standards.

The ever rising crime wave, the criminalisation of politics, the use of modern military weaponry and the organised manner in which hold-ups and killings are carried out are not new. It has been happening over the years and spreading fast. The police for various reasons have been helpless and engulfed in this rising crime wave, which quite often has powerful politicians involved. The People’s Alliance government during its seven-year rule, could not, or did not, do very much to halt this rising wave. The involvement of some of the PA politicians in the spread of lawlessness is now quite apparent from the past general election incidents and was, perhaps, a major reason for the public turning against it.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government has many challenges before it, but it cannot afford to ignore the rampant crime that is spreading fast. Citizens expect protection from the government and failure to do so is good enough reason for its rejection at the first given opportunity.

The problem is indeed complicated because of the triangular connection that has been established between politicians, criminals and the police. Mr. Wickremasinghe has started well by bringing in the police under the separate Ministry of Internal Security, where Mr. John Amaratunga can concentrate his attention on the police.

Another reason for the present state of affairs is the demoralised police force. Corrupted and exploited by ruling party politicians, the police has, by and large, become very much ineffective with corrupt policemen making merry with criminals and corrupt politicos, while the honest among the khaki clad can only look away and hope that they would be left alone.

With the Constitutional Council now in place, it is time the government got cracking about the appointment of an independent police commission under which the police would function. With the police force hopefully free of political influence, its efficiency and commitment to maintain law and order will, to a very great extent, depend on the Inspector General of Police, who should not only be a true professional, but a person with impeccable credentials able to inspire the rank and file and rededicate themselves to their basic duties.

The problems in the appointment of a Constitutional Council have been successfully resolved between the president and prime minister, and now it is time for the speedy appointment of the independent commissions for the police, public service, judiciary and the elections department. People have been clamouring for the appointment of these commissions and despite the elusive ‘peace’ being the first priority, these commissions can do very much to better the lives of citizens without the patronage of politicians.

The call for the dawning of a new political culture all the more demands the appointment of these independent commissions soon, because they would be the instruments that can transform to a very great extent, the conduct of politics, the observance of the Rule of Law, dispensation of justice and good governance. If these objectives can be met with the appointment of these independent commissions, then indeed a new political culture or that political culture we enjoyed during the immediate post-independence days could be had.

Since both President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe are proponents of promoting a new political culture, it would indeed be paradoxical if they cannot agree on speeding up the creation of the instruments that could transform the current gun, kassipu and grenade culture into a culture of transparency, honesty and law and order.

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