The Police’s day of shame | Daily News

The Police’s day of shame

Never in the post independence history of Sri Lanka has the reputation of the Police hit such a low ebb and had drawn the ire of the public and politicians, like at present, as the picture keeps emerging of details of Police inaction and/ or complicity in the incidents at Galle Face on May 9 where peaceful protestors were mercilessly attacked by goons incited by Government politicians, following a meeting at Temple Trees. No less a person than the IGP has come under the spotlight after details transpired of his alleged passive role in the whole matter of which details were bared before the Human Rights Commission by another high ranking police officer who too has increasingly come under scrutiny for allegedly facilitating the goons’ access to the Galle Face protest venue.

Former Minister MP Ramesh Pathirana whose home too was burnt down in the retaliatory mob violence, provided a firsthand account of the role of the IGP and the Secretary, Ministry of Law and Order that resulted in the attacks. Speaking in Parliament, the Minister said he was at a meeting with the President when a former MP alerted him on the phone of what was about to happen. He in turn brought this to the notice of the President who called the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo over the phone with instructions to halt the advance by using tear gas, only to be told by the latter that he was acting on the orders of the IGP and Ministry Secretary, to leave matters as they are - meaning to look the other way to allow the mob to reach the protest venue. It was the strong admonishment by the President of the Senior DIG which eventually led to Police teargas being fired preventing what would have been a worse catastrophe, MP Pathirana said. He unreservedly blamed the Ministers who incited the crowd at Temple Trees.

It was certainly a day of shame for the Police who not only failed to prevent the attacks at Galle Face but also looked on helplessly as rampaging mobs burnt and destroyed the homes of many politicians and billions of rupees worth of public and private property including hundreds of vehicles, not to mention the lynching of a Government MP. The Carlton residence of the former Prime Minister in Tangalle too was attacked and the D. A. Rajapaksa memorial destroyed, which is a severe indictment on the Police. All officers who were remiss in their duty should be identified and the full force of the law brought to bear on them. Speedy action is required to identify the chain of events that led to the violence and also those responsible for fanning the flames that led to loss of lives and destruction of property. All Police officers responsible should be exposed and legal action taken against them. The Attorney General's Department has led the way in getting things moving to apprehend the politicians behind the Galle Face attack. Two Government MPs have been placed in remand and a host of others both MPs and Local Government heads who were present at Temple Trees and seen on footage leading the mobs are being questioned by the CID. However, the leading players in the affair appear to have slipped under the radar of investigators and the AG should give strict instructions for a comprehensive probe by the Police and whoever found guilty duly punished.

What is needed is a credible investigation that will satisfy the public. The Government should not open another flank for the prevailing public anger to redouble by allowing sham investigations. The public are seething with uncontrolled rage as depicted on TV, increasingly finding it difficult to survive, amidst the runway Cost of Living and a chronic shortage of essential items in addition to crop failure due to the fertilizer crisis. It is encouraging that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken a keen interest in the proceedings of the current investigations by calling for daily reports on the progress to be handed over to the Speaker.

Meanwhile, in a shocking disclosure, the IGP has revealed that only two out of the 184 OIC appointments to Police stations confirmed to the required standards while rest of the appointments were made purely at the behest of the area politicians which he attributed as the main cause for the ineffectiveness of the Police to control the mob violence and arson attacks that followed the Galle Face incidents. He said as many as 126 of these OICs were appointed without interviews and a majority of them had never served as OICs in any Police Station prior to that. It is ironic that the politicization of the Police eventually had been chiefly responsible for the fate that befell those politicians who lost their homes and belongings in the mob violence. This should at least now teach all ruling party politicians against interfering in matters of law and order or in any appointment for that matter, in the future. Let the reintroduction of the 19th Amendment and with it the Independent Commissions mark the end of this anomaly.

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