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LONG OVERDUE POLICE OVERHAUL: POINTS TO PONDER

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bY NIHAL DE ALWIS

(former Intelligence Officer)

Not only serving, but retired senior police officers and others, I am certain, will be glad if the new, energetic and enthusiastic Minister, Dr Sarath Weerasekera (Rtd. Rear Admiral SLN), will engage himself in providing and improving facilities and basic requirements of the police.

Getting the best out of a team obviously needs provision of basic needs and facilities before assigning it with the task of controlling, preventing and detecting crime and corruption. The Police can consider itself fortunate that a service officer with a clean record is planning to reorganize the department; something that is long overdue and has been neglected.

I suggest the minister selects a team of advisers with a clean background and is knowledgeable from the Retired Senior Police Officers’ Association ( RSPOA) and the Inspectors Association to ensure he is on the correct track as he may not be aware of the Departmental Orders and laws, like the Police Ordinance etc., which empower and guide the police.

Past IGP’s have committed the glaring error of not adhering to some guidelines provided in the Departmental Orders but opting to, satisfy their own aspirations with political patronage. As a result, Sub-Inspectors completing eight years unblemished service have failed to make the rank of Inspector before retirement suffering pension implications affecting whole families. Only an Efficiency Bar, and not cadre approval from the ministry, is needed to effect such promotions after eight years of unblemished service. Some of the officers who have suffered as a result have as many as 35 years dedicated police service. Going to court has been the only option available to them as their appeals had fallen on deaf ears.

Obviously, the department should factor these promotion obligations in calculating its budgetary requirements in the prior year. But this has not been done. I am aware that civilian staff do the annual budgets without direction by senior officers and lack of planning is evident with the votes blindly presented to the ministry. Budgets must be prepared by a qualified team competent to do that job in a department, like the Police. This is one of the reasons, the Police has always lagged behind the forces who give top priority to subjects like these without which no organization can develop.

The minister should be adequately advised by the department, which sadly lacks courage and competence, to urge any government to provide basic requirements. Unfortunately, the department never had courageous officers with integrity to pursue its needs after the late Mr. LDC Herath. I would like to list the following requirements for the consideration of the minister:

 

POLICE HOSPITAL

(1) The last government allocated land opposite the Police Hospital for its expansion, but unfortunately the SLAF appears to have hijacked this property! What are senior police officers doing? Why are they dumb? The Police Hospital looks like a rural hospital compared to the Army Hospital which looks like a five star hotel. It should be decentralized with clinics in at least every province so that patients in places like Kandy don’t have to come to Colombo for their medicine. There is unconfirmed information that Rs. 20 billion from the Police Reward Fund had been loaned by a former IGP to the army to develop its hospital. Only a special audit, preferably from the Auditor General’s Department, will reveal the truth.

 

(2) POLICE ACADEMY

The building granted for a Police Academy by the late Mrs Sirimavo Dias Bandaranaike was taken over by the Army as the then IGP had no courage to oppose it. (Or did he encourage it?) Why can’t the Police department create, a proper Academy providing higher training, diplomas, refresher courses and intelligence and investigation training. It could possibly be affiliated to British institutions like Scotland Yard, Metropolitan Police College etc. It could even perhaps offer degrees in law etc to upgrade standards.

 

(3) COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY

Stationary, pens and files are not adequately provided to Police stations at present.

Even in this day and age most Police Stations have no duplicating, fax or photocopying machines and most of the staff is not trained to use a computer. I have had personal experience of being told ” No half sheets, Sir, or the typist is not available, please come tomorrow,” when seeking a certified copy of a document. If there is a photocopying machine, stations could conveniently handle such work.

Every Police station is understaffed. Eg. If one visits Mirihana or Cinnamon Gardens Police Station they will tell you “Sir, we have no staff to send on an investigation now as most are on special or guard duties.” Regular police officer trained to prevent , detect and investigate crime are used for ancillary duties. Why can’t the department which scrapped the Reserve Police re- create it and use it for such duties? The department was ruined by an allegedly corrupt and politically biased IGP who absorbed the Reserve Police Into the permanent cadre, depriving many deserving permanent officers of their promotions.

 

(3) RECRUITMENT & TRAINING

Recruitment of graduates as Probationary ASPs has hurt the prospects of lower ranks seeking promotion to Gazetted rank. In the past there were Constables who rose to the rank of ASP and SP, but today even a Sub Inspector obtaining due promotion is rare. If the department is determined to recruit graduates, they could be recruited as Inspectors and made to gather five years experience managing police stations , investigating and court work etc. After five years, they could be eligible to go before a Promotion Board and seek promotion as an ASP. Today, few directly recruited ASP’s can conduct a case in courts. They are not competent to advise and guide subordinates as they lack experience.

Malaysia has adopted this system of recruiting graduate Inspectors to ensure that they, as ASPs, will know the workings of a Police Stations and will be better able to supervise Police Stations and guide and direct staff with knowledge and expertise. About 30 – 40 years ago, the standard of graduate ASP recruits was much higher than now and they did contribute much to the service.

Training systems must be revised to suit today’s needs with policemen taught to to respect the public and interact harmoniously with people without discriminating between rich and poor, demonstrating that they are Public Servants. They must be trained in all three languages and should be able to record complaints in the language in which they are made.

In the past Vigilance Squads helped the police to solve crime, detect Illicit liquor and apprehend suspects. The OIC or his deputy visited retired public servants whose names and addresses were posted on wall files at police stations to get their support for effective policing.

All Officers should be trained in disaster management, fire fighting, life saving, first aid, and safety measures as stipulated by the Safety Division of the Labour Department. The deterioration of discipline is very evident and I have seen Sub-Inspectors sharing a cigarette with constables!

 

 

(4) RE-STRUCTURING POLICE DIVISIONS AND DISTRICTS

(a)Since there are over 57 DIGs. the police department should re-demarcate divisions and districts to ensure that these officers are made use of and don’t merely warm their seats. They must be stationed in the respective Ranges and not in Colombo. At present the DIGs are supposed to visit their Ranges only once a year. This must be changed and they should be required to visit at least twice a week, excluding surprise night visits. They should get more involved in the welfare of staff and be accessible to the public daily obviating the need for people to seek political influence to address their grievances. The Police cadre should be increased if the public is to get a better service with an increase in the number of Police stations. Lack of staff, along with shortage of vehicles, is the main reason for the delay in conducting investigations.

(a)Transport systems are very poor with vehicles from the stations, except for a few, having to be brought to Colombo for attention. Every province should be provided facilities for better maintenance of police vehicles as there is tendency of some stations harassing garages to do free repairs leaving room for corruption.

(b) The Police department should adopt a scheme of insuring vehicles, rather than the Department paying costs in case the driver is at fault. This should be thought of as in according to the law non governmental vehicles cannot run on the ,road without a license. Hence it is illegal, for the Police department which prosecutes others to run their vehicles without a licenses.

 

(5)SALARIES & WELFARE

The Police department is the lowest paying among all the services though policemen work continuously with no overtime. The Welfare Division is incompetent and far behind those in the other forces. For example, policemen assigned for duties at various points are dropped at these places but never provided return transport. They work for several hours without drinking water or toilet facilities. This seems to be nobody’s business. Why can’t mobiles toilets and drinking water be provided? I do not think the Police department realizes the importance of these facilities. The problem is quite evident especially at check points etc on the Nawala – Narahenpita Rd.

Insurance schemes for officers must be provided in terms of risk etc. Posthumous promotions are of little use to grieving families. Over 650 policemen were massacred by LTTE terrorists (when they had surrendered on the orders of a spineless IGP). The main suspect is still openly in politics but no one cares. Sadly no governments has done the needful for compensating the families of these policemen. A team comprising Of Rtd Senior DIG A. Selvaratnam and Retd. SSP Tassy Seneviratna along with several senior police officers compiled a report with data from the affected families. This was presented it to the then IGP but nothing happened; nor have succeeding IGPs done anything about it. This is the state of the Sri Lanka Police! What can you expect from a Service which celebrated 153 years seeing the IGP remanded!

 

POLICE ARCHIVES/ MUSEUM

A Police Archives and Museum should be given priority for the public to know what the Police had achieved & sacrificed by way of lives lost and duty done protecting the people; and the excellent investigations conducted in solving serious crimes of various sorts.

 

Conclusion

Retired police officers, especially, are eagerly and impatiently waiting to assist the new minister and his team in reorganizing the Police Department and improving its service to the Public whilst ensuring quality of service. We certainly hope the department will be able to function without political interference and provide the public with a friendly, not-corrupt professional police.



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India at 75

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By Gwynne Dyer

Last Tuesday, on the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to turn India into a developed country, within the next 25 years. If all goes well, that could actually come to pass, but it would have to go very well indeed.The demographic and economic signs are positive. The country’s population has grown fourfold, since independence in 1947, but population growth has now dropped to ‘replacement level’: 2.1 children per completed family.

The current youngest generation is so large that the population will keep growing, until 2060, when it will have reached 1.7 billion. The upside of this is that India will continue to have a rapidly growing young workforce for another generation, while its only rival, China, will have a rapidly ageing and dwindling population (1.2 billion and still falling in 2060)

India’s GDP per capita has been growing at about 5% for years, and if that continues for the next 25 years, it will have grown to $7,500 per person. That’s certainly within the lower ranks of developed countries (like Mexico, South Africa or China today). Given the size of India’s population, the economy would certainly rank in the world’s top five.

So, Modi’s prediction was certainly within the realm of possibility, but there are two big wild cards. One is climate: although only half of India, technically, falls within the tropics, all of it, except the very far north, suffers long, very hot summers.This summer has been the hottest ever, with many of the largest cities experiencing temperatures, above 45°C, for days at a time. Whatever we do about climate in the future, it can only go on getting worse for India, for the next 25 years.

That will bring the country into the zone where it literally becomes unsafe for people to do manual work outside, at the height of summer; death rates will go up, and food production will go down. Nobody knows exactly how bad it will get, but it will certainly get much worse that it is now.

The other wild card is war. Since the Indian and Pakistani tests of nuclear weapons, in 1999, the subcontinent has lived under the threat of a ‘local’ nuclear war that would devastate both countries (and also cause global food shortages lasting for at least four or five years).An Indo-Pak nuclear war is not inevitable, but, unlike the major nuclear powers, these two countries have fought real wars against each other – three in the past 75 years. The likelihood of such a catastrophe actually happening is certainly a lot higher than zero.

Each country now has about 160 nukes, and although both are now working to move beyond the dangerously unstable ‘use them or lose them’ phase where a a surprise attack might disarm the other side, there is no real stability to be found when the adversaries are so close and the hostility is so intense.So there is no harm in considering whether it might have been better to keep the entire Indian subcontinent, first united by the British empire, in one piece, at independence, rather than splitting it into two countries (and eventually three, counting Bangladesh).

The split was by no means inevitable. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the two main Hindu leaders of the independence movement, wanted an inclusive, non-sectarian republic, including all of British India, although they failed to offer Muslims sufficient guarantees to ensure their support.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the main Muslim leader in 1947, did want to carve a Muslim-majority Pakistan out of the country, but there was no obligation for the British government to satisfy his demand. He got his way because the United Kingdom was virtually broke after the Second World War and in a great hurry to dump its responsibilities in India.

Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer who had never been east of Paris, had five weeks to draw the dividing line between the two new countries. Around 15 million people, who found themselves on the wrong side of that line, became refugees, mutual massacres followed, and within weeks India and Pakistan had their first war. But it could have been different.

The undivided ‘big India’ would have 1.8 billion people today, about one-third Muslim and two-thirds Hindu. That would virtually guarantee that both groups would be represented in every government and in most political parties.

Lots of countries, elsewhere in the world, manage to be both democratic and prosperous with comparable religious and/or ethnic differences. The ‘big India’ would not have wasted 75 years’ worth of high defence spending, and there would be no risk of nuclear war.All those energies would have been devoted instead to civilian priorities, and that united India might already rank as a developed country. Might-have-beens.

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Ukraine War: Mother May I?

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By Gwynne Dyer

“This obviously does not happen because of a thrown butt,” said British Defense Minister Ben Wallace. But the Russian Ministry of Defence insisted that the explosions that destroyed at least eight warplanes at Saki Air Base in Russian-occupied Crimea on 9 August were due to “a violation of fire safety requirements.”

The implication is that some careless Russian smoker tossed away his cigarette butt and caused a fire that set off explosions. That’s hardly a testimonial to the discipline of the Russian air force’s ground crews, but it’s better than admitting that Ukrainian missiles have reached 225 km behind Russian lines to destroy a whole squadron of Russian fighters.Moscow also claimed that no Russian aircraft had been damaged by the explosions in Crimea, although the wreckage of the destroyed fighters was clearly visible on the ‘overheads’ from satellite observations.

The Russian Defence Ministry played the same silly game in April when Ukrainian cruise missiles sank the ‘Moskva.’, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. It claimed that a fire had caused munitions to explode, and that the ship then sank while under tow due to “stormy seas” (although the sea was actually flat calm at the time).And what caused that fire? Careless smokers again, presumably, because even the most damning statements about the indiscipline and incompetence of Russian sailors and airmen are preferable to an admission that the Ukrainians are really hurting Russia.

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry is having fun with this, reporting that it “cannot establish the cause of the fire [at the Russian airfield], but once again reminds of fire safety rules and a ban on smoking in unauthorized places.”

Taking responsibility for these strikes deep in Russian-controlled territory is not in Ukraine’s interest, so it’s happy for Russia to take the blame. Various anonymous defence officials in Kyiv further muddied the waters by suggesting that Ukrainian partisans were responsible, or Ukrainian special forces already operating far behind Russian front lines.

But why is it not in Ukraine’s interest to take ownership of these small but symbolically important victories?

It’s because the really decisive front in this war is how fast American and other NATO weapons systems are sent to Ukraine, and that is determined by a process that seems to be derived largely from the old children’s game of ‘Mother May I’ (also known as ‘Giant Steps’).The opening move is quite straightforward: Kyiv asks Washington for a hundred HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems so that it can counter Russia’s huge superiority in older artillery and rocket systems and drive Moscow’s forces from Ukrainian soil.

Washington replies that it can take two giant steps and a frog hop. No, wait a minute, it replies that Ukraine can have four HIMARS systems now. Once the crews have been trained and have demonstrated their proficiency in using the weapons, Kyiv can start the next round of the game by asking for more. This takes four weeks.

Getting into the spirit of the game, Ukraine then asks for only twenty more HIMARs, leaving the rest for later. Washington replies that it can take four baby steps and a pirouette – or rather, four more HIMARs now, but with the range still restricted to 70 km. and no thermobaric ammunition (fuel-air explosives). And so on.We are now in the fourth round of this game, with sixteen HIMARs promised of which Ukraine has already deployed between eight and twelve on the battlefield. At this rate, Ukraine will have the hundred HIMARs it needs to expel the Russians around April of 2024.

Similar games are being played with other badly needed weapons from NATO stockpiles like Western-made combat aircraft, modern anti-air defence systems, and longer-range missiles for attacks like the one on Saki Air Base. This is all driven by an excess of caution about such ‘escalation’ at the White House and in the National Security Council.

Washington is right to be concerned about Russia’s reactions, but it is prone to see the Russians as dangerously excitable children. They are not. They are poker players (NOT chess-players) who bet over-confidently, and are now trying to bluff their way out of trouble. The Russian ruling elite, or at least most of it, remains rational.

The Ukrainians, however, have to take American anxieties into account even when they use their own weapons, some of which have been modified for extended range, on distant Russian targets. The simplest way is just to pretend it wasn’t their weapons that did the damage.The same policy applies to the numerous acts of sabotage carried out in Russia by Ukrainian agents – and by a happy accident the Russians are willing to collaborate in this fiction. They’d rather blame the clumsiness, ignorance and incompetence of their own troops than give the credit to the Ukrainians.

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Book Review : An incisive exploration of Sri Lanka’s religiosity

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Title: ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka’ – Innovation, shared spaces, contestation

Editors – Mark P. Whitaker, Darini Rajasingham- Senanayake and Pathmanesan Sanmugeswaran

A Routledge South Asian Religion Series publication

Exclusively distributed in Sri Lanka by Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo 5. (e-mail: vijiyapa@gmail.com)

Reviewed by Lynn Ockersz

This timely publication could be described as a revelation of the fascinating nature of Sri Lanka’s religiosity. It is almost customary to refer to Sri Lanka as a ‘religious country’ but it is not often that one comes across scholarly discussions on the subject locally. ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka..’, a collection of research papers put together in book form, fills this void most adequately.

Although not necessarily synonymous with spiritual development, religiosity in Sri Lanka essentially refers to the widespread prevalence of organized or institutionalized religion in the lives of the majority of Sri Lankans. What qualifies the country to be seen as religiously plural is the presence in it of numerous religions, though mainly in their institutionalized forms.

What ought to pique the interest of the specialist and that of the inquiring layman alike is the fact that though falling short of the highest standards of spirituality most of the time, religion is used innovatively and creatively by its adherents to meet some of their worldly and otherworldly needs. That is, religion is a dynamic and adaptable force in the lives of Sri Lanka’s people. ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka..’ explores these characteristics of religion in depth and underscores the vitality of religion in the consciousness of its diverse practitioners. A chief strength of the publication is the featuring of almost all the main religions of Sri Lanka, from the viewpoint of their innovative and adaptable use by devotees.

The research papers in question, numbering 16, were presented at an Open University of Sri Lanka forum held in mid-July in 2017. The editors of the volume have done well to bring these papers together and present them in book form to enable the wider public in Sri Lanka and abroad to drink deep of the vital insights contained in them, considering that religiosity has gained increasingly in importance in post-war Sri Lanka. Fittingly, ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka..’, is dedicated to the memory of well-known Sri Lankan social scientist Malathi de Alwis who, unfortunately, is no longer with us, but had contributed a paper at the relevant forum prior to her passing away. Her paper too is contained in the collection.

The thematic substance of the volume could be said to have been set out in some detail by co- editor Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake in her introductory essay titled, ‘Spaces of Protection, healing and liberation…’ She writes: ‘Religiosity appears as a means of coping with life’s transitions, celebrations, disappointments, diseases, conflicts and violence; and events such as birth and death, illness, exams, marriage, divorce, the sense of the sacred, the auspicious, and inauspicious (Sumangali-Amangali). Fundamentally, beyond the political, (multi-)religiosity provides an individual’s coping strategy and/or a social performance for negotiating with the perceived power, energies and structures that are greater than oneself, particularly the supernatural and transnational.’

When seen from the above perspective, the ability of many Sri Lankans to comfortably worship at multiple religious institutions and shrines, for example, while claiming adherence in the main to this or that religious belief makes considerable sense, because the average Lankan devotee is of a pragmatic bent and not a religious purist. Depending on her needs she would worship at a major Buddhist or Hindu temple, for example, and also supplicate her cause at a prominent Catholic church. Such practices speak volumes for the flexibility and innovativeness of the devotee. They also testify to her broad religious sympathies and her ability to share her religious spaces with others of different religious persuasions. A few places of religious significance in Sri Lanka that thus draw adherents of multiple religions are Adam’s Peak, Kataragama, Madhu Church and St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, Colombo.

At these places of reverence the usually restricted adherence to a single religious belief or faith is easily transcended by worshippers as apparently part of a personal or collective coping strategy to deal with multiple personal and societal pressures. ‘Kataragama Pada Yatra – Pilgrimaging with ethnic “others” ‘ by Anton Piyaratne and ‘Religious innovation in the pilgrimage industry – Hindu bodhisattva worship and Tamil Buddhistness’ by Alexander McKinley are just two papers in the collection that deal insightfully with this aspect of worshippers’ abilities to comfortably manage multiple religious identities and spaces. These habits of the average Sri Lankan devotee highlight the potentiality of religiosity, among other things, to be a bridge-builder among communities.

For instance, Mckinley sets out in his exposition: ‘Religious innovation at shared sacred sites can thus blur or sharpen the dominant ethno-religious divisions of ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ and ‘Tamil Hindu’ in Sri Lanka. Saman devotion can simultaneously be interpreted as a sincere form of highland Hindu religiosity, a strategic innovation by Tamil workers to appease Sinhala pilgrims, as well as an opening for Sinhalas to either convert Tamils into Buddhists, or to cooperate with them towards common goals, such as environmental conservation’.

A conspicuous and continuing theme of the collection is the wide-ranging and often damaging impact of the Sri Lankan government’s 30-year anti-LTTE war. Quite a number of the researchers, thus, deal with its adverse impact on women, and quite rightly, because the war revealed as perhaps never before the marked vulnerabilities of Sri Lankan women in conflict situations. ‘Of Meditation, Militarization and Grease Yakas’ by Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake and ‘Vijaya and Kuweni retold’ by Neena Mahadev deal quite elaborately on this subject and throw valuable light on the multi-dimensional impact the Northern war has had on women, besides focusing on the resourceful ways in which religion is used by women to cope with social and political issues.

‘Emerging innovative religiosities and what they signify’ by Selvy Thiruchandran continues with the focus on women and religiosity but introduces a wider societal dimension by bringing into the discourse the phenomenon of New Religious Movements (NRM). The researcher points to the immense popularity among mainly middle class women of two of these movements, the Satya Sai Baba cult and the growing interest in Brahma Kumaris Yoga centres, and elaborates on the roles they play in enabling women to deal with personal and societal pressures.

However, Thruchandran arrives at the thought-provoking conclusion at the end of her wide-ranging research that, ‘The old religion and the new so-called innovation that is sought in the new religions can be summarized in a well-known cliché – old wine in new bottles.’ That is, these New Religions are mainly forms of escapism. We have here a fresh perspective on issues relating to the liberation of women that calls for deep consideration. Moreover, these New Religious Movements do not help in any substantive way to change the fundamental and perennial reality of male domination over women; for, we are given to understand that some men actively discourage their wives from joining the Brahma Kumaris movement.

The role of Sri Lanka’s Christian Left in giving religion a progressive and socially emancipatory orientation in recent decades is the subject of Harini Amarasuriya’s paper titled, ‘Beards, cloth bags, and sandals – Reflections on the Christian left in Sri Lanka’. The researcher’s prime focus is on an institution of mainly Left political activism established by a Christian clergyman, Sevaka Yohan, in Ibbagamuwa, Kurunegala in the seventies decade by the name Devasaranaramaya. Besides committing itself to robust Left political activism, the latter centre possessed an indigenous cultural ethos and sought to unite the country’s cultures and religions. In other words, the institution aimed at being a shared space where religions comingled on the basis of shared values.

Accordingly, the publication of ‘Multi-Religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka…’, is a welcome development. The book sheds invaluable light on the subject of local religiosity, which is a relatively unexplored but vital area of knowledge that has important implications for nation-building in Sri Lanka. Besides the papers discussed above, there are numerous other learned and insightful research papers on religiosity in this collection that call for urgent reading. Collectively the papers constitute a treasury of knowledge that those pursuing Sri Lankan Studies could ill-afford to by-pass.

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