Did they die in vain?


Intelligence as a police duty failed even as terrorist preparations were long being made prior to the April 21st event. During a long period of many years the arsenal was being assembled. Intelligence of April 21st event came only during the last few days prior thereto. The sinister developments over the years before, over the whole island were not monitored, not known to the Police and the authorities. Intelligence as a duty of ALL police, their duty in law, section 56 Police Ordinance, could have spared the country the April carnage.

April 21st alone brought on the full story. Investigation then showed where intelligence had for so long failed. The sweep of the preparations that had been underway for years at least was lost to the police. The local police and the OICC and their hierarchy were blissfully unaware of what was taking place in their own areas, before their very nose. Ultimately, then the investigation units from Colombo alone brought on the extent of terrorist plans. Police in the provinces failed their primary intelligence function. The local police only watched in dismay as the bombs and much else were unearthed by others from Colombo, all before their very eyes. Failure of intelligence by the police in all the regions – numbering perhaps about 80,000 - is as much in the case of drugs and organised crime as in terrorism if the Easter carnage is anything to go by. The focus here is on intelligence though surely there are other reasons for failure to prevent the tragic incident. Wouldn’t the basic intelligence function of the police duly performed in the regions have spared us this tragedy? This is the lesson to learn from the fateful incident, failure of intelligence.

The innocents died that we might live, learn to live. If so, they may not have died in vain. There are very few such hard-hearted men in this world who can kill innocent men, women and children, believing in rewards in next life.

A term buddhi anshaya, meaning an Intelligence section, has been repeatedly mentioned in reporting since the event, at all levels. The idea so conveyed is that intelligence is the task of a particular section of the Police. This is a serious misconception, which needs immediate correction. Intelligence is the function and duty of ALL police men, not of few, as was said earlier. For various reasons, however, intelligence has thus been consigned, in the popular idea and even in the police mind, only to particular sections of the police. This kind of relegation of intelligence duties has been the feature of policing only over perhaps the last twenty years. Prior to that intelligence was the task of all police personnel. Particular intelligence sections were separated only for administrative reasons. Failure of intelligence was then, a lesson to be re-learned both at the centre and in the regions.

Frank de Silva


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