Keep hands off the STF | Daily News

Keep hands off the STF

At a recent interview of Minister Field Marshal Fonseka he had stated that a group of people had gone to Wilpattu with him when he went there as the Subject Minister. A media channel had accused him of keeping underworld figures as his bodyguards. The Police had started going after the latter since. He was certain that they are not involved in criminal activities at present.

It is strange that the Field Marshal did not make a move against the media channel that made the allegation. Furthermore his assertion that the people referred to were not involved in criminal activities at present is to say the least, Puerile. To the police, the prisons, the judiciary and even criminologists it is the criminal record that matters. Fonseka the seasoned, soldier, should have known that it is the Police that know best about criminals.

Fonseka had gone on to state that he had spoken regarding the above to the Minister of Law and Order Madduma Bandara and the latter had got down the DIG STF M.R. Latheef; and on the very same day Latheef had arrested one of these persons and another a few days later. Either Latheef was certain that Fonseka’s men were in fact underworld criminals or the Minister of Law and order had ordered Latheef to arrest them!

The head of the STF whose integrity has never been challenged and whose intrepid leadership has become legendary in the decade we live in was not intimidated by the Field Marshall’s behaviour. Had Latheef succumbed he would have forfeited his right to command the most respected unit of the Sri Lanka Police.

Politicians of all hues have today lost their credibility. They have even lost their senses. Worse still, idiotic buffoons of a local body want to sit on temperature controlled air cushioned super – luxury chairs that could titillate themselves; and it is shocking indeed to see unpatriotic and treacherous politicians striving their utmost to bestow legitimacy on the underworld.

Founding fathers of the STF

The STF was set up thirty five years ago to strengthen Sri Lanka’s security. The founding fathers of the STF President J.R. Jayewardene, his competent security advisor and only son Ravi, General Sepala Attygalle and Cyril Herath were men of vision. So were the early Commandants and their assistants who had excelled in their respective commands as senior officers of the Police. To mention a few that come to mind, Zerny Wijesuriya, Nimal Lewke, Lionel Karunasena, Nimal Gunatilleke, N.K. Illangakoon and Upali Sahabandu were officers of impeccable integrity endowed with knowledge and courage.

The STF of today owes much to these early leaders for the admirable standards they set. The foundation they built nearly four decades ago is so solid and firm that disruptive forces mainly in the form of power hungry politicians have begun to learn that the stones that they hurl at the STF have begun to boomerang with vigour to the elation and joy of the law abiding people who are deeply conscious of the role that the STF continues to play in national security and law enforcement.

My personal interest in the well-being and progress of the STF albeit in my thirty third year of retirement from the Police flows from the fact that I too may have made an iota of a contribution to the formation of this elite unit. Numerous were the occasions when I as the DIG Metropolitan sat at meetings very often at ‘Braemar’ to fine-tune this fledgling organisation. A specific task I remember that was entrusted to me in confidence was to monitor the security, behavior, movements and contacts of the personnel of the Keeni Meani Services (KMS) a mercenary service of retired British Special Air Services (SAS) Commandoes that had been contracted to train the nascent STF of the Police.

The President and Ravi Jayewardene were aware of my proficiency in this aspect of security particularly because I had been the Director of intelligence and Director of Presidential Security prior to becoming the DIG of the Metropolitan Range. I had even travelled extensively in Europe, United States, India, Japan and Cuba with the President.

The signal factor that led to the birth of the STF is no doubt attributable to the realization in the early 80’s that the Police that was facing the brunt of terrorist attacks culminating in the frightening attack on the Chavakachcheri Police Station on October 27, 1982 were woefully ill equipped and trained to counter terrorist attacks.

At the time, police stations were equipped only with a limited number of World War II Lee Enfield .303 rifles that had a mighty recoil and one or two short range Sterling Sub-machine guns. The enemy’s firepower was infinitely superior.

It was remarkable that this infant unit armed with modern weapons such as assault rifles, Sub-Machine Guns, buffels and sophisticated communications equipment with the training received from the retired British SAS Commandoes was by 1984 in a position to relieve the Army from their camps in Batticaloa. Resorting to its newly acquired unique operational strategies it was the STF that restored normalcy in Batticaloa. With less than a thousand men the STF was able to achieve this against almost the entire might of the ruthless LTTE.

It is regrettable that in the much publicized, important post war national commemorations of war heroes under Presidential patronage the silent but highly commendable role played by the STF has not received the recognition it deserves. But it can take pride and solace in the fact that due to the solid traditions of courage and fierce independence and unparalleled standards of discipline and competence it has today become the most respected and feared adjunct of the Sri Lanka Police.

Underworld and the Narcotics business

After the war on Terrorism ended nearly a decade ago while some ‘War heroes’ as well as ‘soldiers of fortune’ are digging drains, repairing roads and levelling garbage heaps, the STF as its primary police function is fighting another war no less important than against Terrorism. The underworld and the Narcotics business both thriving more often than not with the blessings of politicians have become the most dangerous threats to the nation.

Not a day passes without confrontations of the STF and underworld characters invariably enjoying the protection of politicians, becoming newspaper headlines! These have become the most obnoxious blots in the character of the government.

Admittedly, these are not as obvious and intense as during the last regime when for example a letter from the Prime Minister’s office led to the release by the Customs of a Container that contained narcotics! Also during this time did not the President chopper his way to the residence of a politician to console him because the police had searched his house for narcotics?

The ongoing efforts of the STF led by its commandant Senior DIG M.R. Latheef need to be appreciated and encouraged. Any act direct or indirect to dampen the enthusiasm of this spirited leader borders on treachery. Even the mere ‘Calling up’ to implicitly or explicitly express displeasure at a bona fide arrest made by the STF in the pursuit of duty can be hurtful to this honest officer who is sincerely targeting the underworld, narcotics dealers and criminal cartels, the most dangerous peacetime enemies of the country.

Admirable traits of men need to be recognized. Was not the field Marshal admired and profoundly praised by the people when he was leading the forces to victory? The dilemma of advancing troops was succinctly described by all and sundry as “Johnny in front (referring to Johnny mines) and Fonny behind”. Unquestionably it was Fonseka’s much needed ruthless leadership that effectively put an end to desertions and self-infliction of battle wounds that were major obstacles to the march to victory. With ample justification Fonseka was acclaimed as one of the greatest Generals in the world.

Inasmuch as enemy cadres and would be deserters hated the guts of Fonseka, the STF Commandant has become the bane of the criminal world. Underworld figures shudder when the name “Lathiff”is uttered. This is the reason why the STF is admired by the public today. In any tricky situation even the government first thinks of the STF. It is unfortunate that F M Fonseka has lost his charisma totally after a combination of circumstances dragged him into the cesspit of politics.

Once in politics even men of honour and integrity are in keeping with the prevailing political culture compelled to associate and go out of the way to please rowdies, ruffians and criminals. This scum may be good at intimidating opponents and putting up election posters. They antagonize voters; and politicians lose the respect and regard of public officials. Many ministers in this regime have fallen into this predicament.

Not that this situation did not exist in the past., The police including the STF was indeed humbled and IGP’s and Commandants rendered idle spectators in the face of lawless behavior and unbridled arrogance by scum such as Soththi Upali, Baddegane Sanjiva, Chandi Malli, Wambotta etc. who had the protection of even the highest in the land!

Today, it is obvious that politicians are becoming increasingly dependent on narcotics dealers, underworld characters and crooks to fund their election campaigns. The country’s law enforcement agencies particularly the incorruptible STF have become the only impediments to the galloping march of corruption. The top of the political hierarchy and Party leaders have brazenly and shamelessly turned a blind eye to MPs receiving Cash Cheques from Arjun Aloysius even after they admitted having done so! Can a prudent public expect these same leaders to act any differently if MP’s admit having accepted cash cheques or even cash or gold from hard core underworld narcotics dealers presently in death row actively carrying on the business with accomplices outside?

Politicians of this nature and those above them who by their silence and inaction condone corrupt deals have forfeited their moral right to be in any way critical of law enforcement agencies particularly the STF that is relentlessly going after the underworld criminals.

Law enforcement agencies

Not many moons ago, on Friday April 6, 2018 to be precise, in an article by me in the Daily News, “Keeping Police Morale High”, referring to a Senior Minister’s (Not the Field Marshal) attempt to brow beat the STF Chief I wrote: “Not many weeks ago concrete evidence emerged proving the connection of politicians to the underworld. Did not a senior minister attempt to brow beat the STF Chief for attempting to arrest a notorious underworld criminal? Perhaps the minister was unaware that the incumbent STF head is the most respected senior officer in the Police today.”

Standing on a solid foundation, for thirty five years, the STF consisting comparatively of a few has done much for the country. It is only of late when the country’s politicians have buried themselves neck deep in a cesspit of corruption that this pride of law enforcement agencies has begun to face the slings and arrows of the outrageous abuse and misuse of power. But the goodwill and reputation it has earned for its unparalleled integrity, honesty and character the nation can expect (with apologies to Tennyson)

“Ministers to come, And
Ministers to go; But
The STF to go on for
Many more decades to come”

Field Marshal Fonseka’s latest outburst against Latheef who is doing so much for the country keeping the underworld in check calling him a ‘Bull in a China Shop’ is not only outrageous and offensive but most uncharitable. Discouraging the STF will certainly lead to the triumph of the underworld! 


 

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