Mob rule: dangerous trend
The storming of
Police stations by angry mobs have now become common in this
country. On Saturday night nearly 100 persons including women
had attempted to force their way into the Mattakkuliya Police
Station following the arrest of a drug peddlar after he was
allegedly manhandled by the police, until they were thwarted by
the Army and the STF.
One recalls the infamous Angulana episode when violent mobs
stoned and laid seige on the local Police station following the
death of two youth while in custody. There have been other
incidents in the provinces where demonstrations were held
opposite Police stations following detainees being subject to
third degree methods.
This is certainly a dangerous trend and does not augur well
for the proper maintenance of law and order in the country.It
also sends a wrong message to undesirable elements in our midst
that the Police is easy prey. Incidents such as that which
occurred on Saturday could also seriously diminish the stature
of the Police in the public eye and jeopardize the smooth
functioning of the law and order machinery.
IGP Mahinda Balasuriya has already transferred the entire
contingent of policemen involved in the matter including the SSP
of the area and the OIC of the Police station in question.
Nearly 100 suspects it was reported have also been taken into
custody. It is also reported that the mob had even removed some
weapons of the station armoury.
We are not sure if the IGP acted prudently by transferring
the Policemen involved in the arrest of the suspect. This
appears now to be the knee jerk reaction that follows similar
incidents. Such action could not only demoralize the Police rank
and file, it would also give fresh impetus for mischief makers
and goad them into invading Police stations as they please.
Needless to say such a state of affairs could only lead to an
anarchic situation and a gradual erosion for the respect of the
It is not clear whether the Policemen concerned had exceeded
their limits in dealing with the suspect. But the fact that
today police stations are becoming increasingly vulnerable to
mob attacks of the kind witnessed in Angulana and Mattakkuliya
should wake up the authorities to the danger signs.
In the good old days, the Police uniform was regarded with
awe and respect and no one in their right minds would dare
challenge a Police officer. A Police Station invoked fear and
trepidation. Those were the times when criminal elements would
take to their heels at the sight of a Policeman and law abiding
citizens reposed the highest confidence and trust in the Police
for solving cases and delivering justice.
Whether the kind of incidents as witnessed on Saturday is a
another sign of the shift in this equation along with the
brutalization of society during the war years is anyone's guess.
Today Policemen have lost the prestige they enjoyed in the days
of yore and as a result have lost the will to perform their
duties as they should. This has led to a majority of the law
enforcement officers becoming a law unto themselves. The
Mattakkuliya incident and others like this that have
proliferated in the recent past bear testimony to this.
On their part the public or the unruly elements among them
are beginning to respond by taking the law into their hands.If
this situation continues, very soon our Police Department will
It is therefore time that the authorities view this
phenomenon with the seriousness it deserves before matters get
out of hand and anarchy rules society. Because if thugs are
allowed to force their way into Police stations it is a
reflection of the contempt for law and order and could be a
prelude to lawlessness. The involvement of the Army to settle a
simple case of law and order is a reflection of the extent how
things have got out of hand. It is no less a personage than
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who called for the rapid
transformation of the Police Force into the civilian law
enforcement agency it was before the war. It however appears
that the military mindset that was cultivated by the Police in
the recent past is still existent at least in some of its
officers judging from the many incidents of Police brutality.
This is not to cast aspersions on the Police Force as a whole
but the quicker it reverts to its original role the quicker it
will build public confidence in it. We say this because the
Police over the years have come down much in public esteem not
only for its mishandling cases but also for bribery and
corruption and is ranked the second highest State body in the
corruption index. This coupled with indiscipline and
politicization has completely distorted the role of the Police
Department today. It is no easy task to restore the status quo
as the virus has got ingrained over a long period of time. What
is needed is an all round shake up to bring the Police
Department back to its glory days.