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Senior DIG AC Dep: a police legend



Mr Arthur Cletus Dep Joined the Ceylon Police on June 1, 1942, as an Assistant Superintendent of Police after his graduation from university. His seniors, were Messers C.C. Dissanayake, W.A.R Leembruggen, S.A.Dissanayaka, Silva and C.P. Wambeek,, all DIGs when he was an SSP in 1962 according to the Seniority List.

He was one of the senior officers with an unblemished record, especially not being involved in the Coup d’etat of 1962. He was scrupulously honest and a devout Catholic who saw his juniors, Messrs. Eleric Abeygunawardene and Stanley Senanayake promoted IGP over him. He was extremely humble, and never opposed or even appealed against such promotions. He was always a contented and god fearing man.

He was educated at St joseph’s College, Colombo when Fr. Legoc, the well known botanist and educationist was Rector.

He was scrupulously honest, on top of a small select band of such officers. He always used his private car and never used official vehicles even to travel home. He went by the book and would never bend the rules to suit those in power in the government or in the police. Probably these qualities denied him of being promoted IGP.

I remember going before him for an interview when my promotion to Inspector was due and he chaired the interview board which included Messers W.P.A Fernando (DIG), and J.A.L. Roosmale Cocq (DIG). To make certain that I looked smart and presentable, I had a new uniform privately tailored in Tootal khaki. He realized that I was not wearing the uniform issued by the department and remarked “this is not a department issue, why did you not comply with the departmental orders ?” I was dumbfounded. Thanks to Mr Roosemale Cocq who came to my rescue saying “Arthur he looks smart. Why find fault as he meant well?”, I did well at the interview and suffered no adverse consequences.

He was an athlete of repute and brought much credit to the Police and the country as a whole. His pole vault record at the national meet was an incredible feat He was the first to go over twelve feet in Sri Lanka and continued to hold the Ceylon record for over 20 years. His brother, Lucien, was as good as he in the sports field but he chose to be a priest.

AC Dep had created a pole vault record by clearing 12 ft.7.5 ins in 1937 according to an article by KLF Wijedasa, the famous 100 yards sprinter and our teacher at Richmond College. When this record was broken in 1962 by Vijitha Wijesekera, Dep was at the grounds and immediately congratulated the athlete. According to Wijedasa, Dep represented Ceylon in a dual athletic meet with India in 1940 along with Duncan White and won his event. Later he was in the National Olympic Committee, on the Board of The Royal Asiatic Society and Vice President of the Ceylon Amateur Athletics Association.

He never publicized himself and once showed the well known sorts editor, MM Thowfeeq, a carefully preserved news clip in response to a question of what his proudest moment in athletics was. The clip quoted then Chief Justice, Sir Sydney Abrahams, saying ” I would award pride of place to Dep’s record breaking pole jumps. The mechanics of this particular event is so difficult, that it took long years in England, before a native pole jumper cleared 11 feet. Dep going six inches higher would have won him an Oxford or Cambridge blue in any year since 1924″

His wife Teckla and his children made him a proud husband and father who lived an exemplary life. Certainly his children emulated his qualities with his eldest daughter, Antoinette, becoming a medical doctor, Marie, Deputy Director of the Export Development Board Priyasath, a most honourable and dignified Chief Justice, Srimath an engineer in Australia and Linus a physics researcher in the USA. Cletus Dep retired as a High Court Judge. I can boldly say that one of the best Chief Justices we had of recent times who acted without fear or favour was Justice Priyasath Dep and I’m certainly the Bar will agree.

AC Dep was a keen historical researcher and the Police Department must be forever indebted to him for writing a History of the Ceylon Police. He spent much effort digging up information in an age when today’s Internet tools were unavailable to gather the information required for a publication of this nature. He says in Volume II that “in 1960 Mr C.C. Dissanayake, then Deputy Inspector General Of Police, asked me to write a history of the Ceylon Police…….. I had to do all the work during weekends, Public Holidays, lunch intervals, and personal leave.”

He invited IGP E.L Abeyagunwardane who went over him on the line of seniority to become IGP to write the Foreword to that publication, an index of his lack of rancor. IGP Abeygunawardana says in his Foreword: “A work of this importance and magnitude involves a large volume of research and reference, which in turn require much time labor and patience. It Is commendable that Mr A.C. Dep whilst discharging the arduous and responsible duties of office was able to devote his spare time and energy to bring forth work of this caliber. He merits the highest praise of all Police Officers and others interested in the development and progress of the Ceylon Police”.

Many years after his retirement he continued to conduct more research re- publishing the Volume 1 of the History of Ceylon Police which was first published by Mr G.K. Pippet. He traced this volume covering the period 1795 -1866 and with its aid and much effort, Mr A.C. Dep added to his own work. I know that he spent a lot of time in further research while he was working at Browns Group as a the Security Adviser/Transport Director, during my period there as Head of Security.

He says in the Preface to that volume: “Mr Pippet, the author of this volume, informed me that he was given a far too short a time to write this—–The present volume which contains more detailed account is the result of a longer period of research.” This meant that he was very much in touch with Mr Pippet when he resumed this research. The volume was published by Mr A.C.Dep consequent to a request made by the IGP to provide a copy of the early work that was out of print.

The IGP at the time, Mr R. Rajasingham (under whom I served when he was the acting SP of Southern Province (South) at Matara had this to say in the Forward. “The service in particular is greatly indebted to A.C.Dep for these two publications and I can only hope that he will be able to find the time to continue his research work and write the “History Of The Ceylon Police Volume 111 covering the period 1915 to 1948 when we regained our Independence”.

But whether Mr A.C. Dep made any attempt to do further work on this subject is not known; perhaps it was not possible due to the lack of facilities in the Police Department.. His dedication in conducting research was never adequately recognized. He was someone SPECIAL to the police and that special recognition was never granted even after his retirement. No IGP or police officer can match the invaluable contribution he made to the Police Department .

I had prematurely resigned from the Police in 1976 and having served as Head Of Security at Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation and Ceylon Cold Stores applied to join Browns Group which had 17 associated companies. Mr Dep was the Security Adviser and Head of the Transport Department which handled a fleet of about 150 vehicles. He was on the board of Interview when I faced it along with many Squadron Leaders, Wing Commanders, Majors and Colonels, and Captains from the Navy. I had not met Mr Dep for a long time and did not expect any assistance from him as I knew him to be a strict officer who never encouraged influence.

However I was selected, perhaps due to my experience in Industrial Security. I found Mr Dep traveling by bus and after office boarding a bus to Maradana station to take the train home despite being the head of transport at Browns. It was during this period he was gathering information to write Volume II of the Police History. I used to almost forcibly drive him to the Archives in my vehicle several times, something I enjoyed. When he retired we gave him a fitting farewell in 1984 and presented him with a black and white TV and he said “Thanks Nihal, now I can watch the news on TV”, clearly indicating he had no television in his house.

He was a true leader of men who never sought popularity and always acted with righteousness. His goal was never to reach high position but an opportunity to perform his duties with commitment and dedication in whatever capacity. He was an epitome of trust who went beyond expectations of honesty. It was in this context that he was entrusted and found worthy to be given the important task of writing the, First and Second Volumes of the History of The Police Department, a trust he never breached.

The Police Department along with the RSPOA (RETIRED SENIOR POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION) should unveil a portrait of him at the Senior Officers’ Mess as a tribute and invite all his children to be present at the unveiling. None in the Police Department can claim that there has been an officer who contributed to the Department more than he in sports, administration, and ensuring that the History of the Police service is on record. He was an officer of the highest integrity with courage to challenge any politician during his period of service which finally deprived him of the post of IGP.

Late IGP Rudra Rajasingham in his foreword, when Volume 1 was redrafted by Mr Dep requested research on the period 1915 to 1948. Unfortunately this challenge has not been take up till now.

Mr Dep was my adviser when I came to know him well at Browns. I sometimes regretted leaving the police prematurely and he advised me saying “Your confidence and success are not determined by what has happened to you in the past, but rather by your decisions about what to focus on right now. This will determine your future.” Advice, given by him certainly has stood me in good stead.

Nihal de Alwis, FISF.

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Have Humanities and Social Sciences muddied water enough?



By Maduranga Kalugampitiya

The domain of the humanities and social sciences is under attack more than ever before. The relevance, as well as usefulness of the degrees earned in those fields, is being questioned left, right, and centre. The question of whether it is meaningful at all to be spending, if not wasting, the limited financial resources available in the coffers to produce graduates in those fields is raised constantly, at multiple levels. Attempts are being made to introduce a little bit of soft skills into the curricula in order to add ‘value’ to the degree programmes in the field. The assumption here is that either such degree programmes do not impart any skills or the skills that they impart are of no value. We often see this widely-shared profoundly negative attitude towards the humanities and the social sciences (more towards the former than towards the latter) being projected on the practitioners (students, teachers, and researchers) in those areas. At a top-level meeting, which was held one to two years ago, with the participation of policy-makers in higher education and academics and educationists representing the humanities and social sciences departments, at state universities, a key figure in the higher education establishment claimed that the students who come to the humanities and social sciences faculties were ‘late-developers’. What better (or should I say worse?) indication of the official attitude towards those of us in the humanities and the social sciences!

While acknowledging that many of the key factors that have resulted in downgrading the humanities and social sciences disciplines are global by nature and are very much part of the neoliberal world order, which dominates the day, I wish to ask if we, the practitioners in the said fields, have done our part to counter the attack.

What the humanities and the social sciences engage with is essentially and self-consciously social. What these disciplines have to say has a direct bearing on the social dimension of human existence. It is near impossible to discuss phenomena in economics, political science, or sociology without having to reflect upon and use examples from what happens in our lives and around us. One cannot even begin to talk about teaching English as a second language without taking a look at her/his own experience learning English and the struggles that many people go through at different levels doing the same. One cannot talk about successful ways of teaching foreign languages without recognizing the need to incorporate an engagement with the cultural life of those languages at some level. No reading of an artwork—be it a novel, a movie, a painting, a sculpture, a poem, whatever—is possible without the reader at least subconsciously reflecting upon the broader context in which those artworks are set and also relating her own context or experience to what is being read. A legal scholar cannot read a legislation without paying attention to the social implications of the legislation and the dynamics of the community at whom that legislation is directed. The point is our own existence as social beings is right in the middle of what we engage with in such disciplines. To steal (and do so self-consciously) a term from the hard/natural sciences, society is essentially the ‘laboratory’ in which those in the humanities and social sciences conduct their work. There may be some areas of study within the humanities and social sciences which do not require an explicit engagement with our social existence, but I would say that such areas, if any, are limited in number.

Needless to say that every social intervention is political in nature. It involves unsettling what appears to be normal about our social existence in some way. One cannot make interventions that have a lasting impact without muddying the water which we have been made to believe is clear. How much of muddying do we as practitioners in the field of humanities and social sciences do is a question that needs to be asked.

Unfortunately, we do not see much work in the humanities and social sciences which unsettles the dominant order. What we often see is work that reinforces and reaffirms the dominant structures, systems, and lines of thought. Lack of rigorous academic training and exposure to critical theory is clearly one of the factors which prevents some scholars in the field from being able to make interventions that are capable of muddying the water, but the fact that we sometimes do not see much muddying even on the part of the more adept scholars shows that lack of rigorous training is not the sole reason.

Muddying the water is no simple matter. To use a problematic, yet in my view useful, analogy, a scholar in the said field trying to make an intervention that results in unsettling the order is like a hydrogen atom in H2O, ‘water’ in layperson’s language, trying to make an intervention which results in a re-evaluation of the oxygen atom. Such an intervention invariably entails a re-evaluation of the hydrogen atom as well, for the reason that the two atoms are part of an organic whole. One cannot be purely objective in its reading of the other. Such an intervention is bound to be as unsettling for the hydrogen atom as it is for the oxygen atom. Similarly, in a majority of contexts, a scholar in the area of the humanities and social sciences cannot make an intervention, the kind that pushes the boundaries of knowledge, without unsettling the dominant structures and value systems, which they themselves are part of, live by, and also benefit from. For instance, the norms, values, and practices which define the idea of marriage in contexts like ours are things that a male scholar would have to deal with as a member of our society, and any intervention on his part which raises questions about gender-based inequalities embodied in such norms, values, and practices would be to question his own privilege. Needless to say that such an intervention could result in an existential crisis for the scholar, at least temporarily. Such interventions also entail the possibility of backlash from society. One needs thorough training to withstand that pressure.

In place of interventions that unsettle the existing order, what we often see is work, which re-presents commonsensical knowledge garbed in jargon. To give an example from an area that I am a bit familiar with, much of the work that takes place in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL) identifies lack of motivation on the part of the students and also teachers and also lack of proper training for teachers as the primary reasons for the plight of English education in the country. This reading is not very different from a layperson’s understanding of the problem, and what we often see as research findings in the field of ESL is the same understanding, albeit dressed up in technical-sounding language. Such readings do not unsettle the existing order. They put the blame on the powerless. Very limited is the work that sees the present plight of English education as a systemic or structural problem. Reading that plight as a systemic problem requires us to re-evaluate the fundamental structures which govern our society, and such re-evaluation is unsettling is many ways. I argue that that is what is expected of scholarship in the ESL field, but unfortunately that is not what we see as coming out of the field.

If what gets produced as knowledge in the humanities and social sciences is jargonized commonsense, then the claim that such fields have nothing important to say is valid. If what a scholar in those fields has to say is not different to a layperson’s understanding of a given reality, the question whether there is any point in producing such scholars becomes valid.

In my view, the humanities and social sciences are in need of fundamental restructuring. This restructuring is not the kind which calls for the incorporation of a bit of soft skills here and a bit of soft skills there so that those who come out of those fields easily fit into predefined slots in society but the kind that results in the enhancement of the critical thinking capacity of the scholars. It is the kind of restructuring that would produce scholars who are capable of engaging in a political reading of the realities that define our existence in society and raise difficult questions about such existence, in other words, scholars who are capable of muddying the water.

(Maduranga Kalugampitiya is attached to Department of English, University of Peradeniya)

Kuppi is a politics and pedagogy happening on the margins of the lecture hall thatparodies, subverts, and simultaneously reaffirms social hierarchies.

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Selective targeting not law’s purpose



By Jehan Perera

The re-emergence of Donald Trump in the United States is a reminder that change is not permanent. Former President Trump is currently utilising the grievances of the white population in the United States with regard to the economic difficulties that many of them face to make the case that they need to be united to maintain their position in society. He is coming forward as their champion. The saying “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” is often attributed to the founders of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, among many others, though Lord Denning in The Road to Justice (1988) stated that the phrase originated in a statement of Irish orator John Philpot Curran in 1790. The phrase is often used to emphasise the importance of being vigilant in protecting one’s rights and freedoms.

Ethnic and religious identity are two powerful concepts by which people may be mobilised the world over. This is a phenomenon that seemed to have subsided in Western Europe due to centuries of secular practices in which the state was made secular and neutral between ethnicities and religions. For a short while last year during the Aragalaya, it seemed that Sri Lanka was transcending its ethnic and religious cleavages in the face of the unexpected economic calamity that plunged large sections of the population back into poverty. There was unprecedented unity especially at the street level to demonstrate publicly that the government that had brought the country to this sorry pass had to go. The mighty force of people’s power succeeded in driving the leaders of that government out of power. Hopefully, there will be a government in the future that will bring the unity and mutual respect within the people, especially the younger generations, to the fore and the sooner the better as the price is growing higher by the day.

But like the irrepressible Donald Trump the old order is fighting to stage its comeback. The rhetoric of ethnicity and religion being in danger is surfacing once more. President Ranil Wickremesinghe who proclaimed late last year that the 13th Amendment to the constitution would be implemented in full, as it was meant to be, and enable the devolution of power to be enjoyed by the people of the provinces, including those dominated by Tamils and Muslims, has gone silent on this promise. The old order to which he is providing a new economic vision is clearly recalcitrant on ethno-religious matters. As a result, the government’s bold plan to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as promised to the international community in 2015 to address the unresolved human rights issues of the war, is reportedly on the rocks. The main Tamil political parties have made statements that they will not legitimise or accept such a mechanism in the absence of a genuine devolution of power. Politics must not override policies.


The sense of threat to ethnicity and religion looms too large once again for forward movement in conflict resolution between the different communities that constitute the Sri Lankan nation which is diverse and plural. Two unlikely persons now find themselves at the centre of an emotion-heavy ethno-religious storm. One is a comedian, the other is a religious preacher. Both of them have offended the religious sensibilities of many in the ethno-religious Sinhala Buddhist majority community. Both of their statements were originally made to small audiences of their own persuasion, but were then projected through social media to reach much larger audiences. The question is whether they made these statements to rouse religious hatred and violence. There have been numerous statements from all sides of the divide, whether ethnic, religious or political, denouncing them for their utterances.

Both comedian Nathasha Edirisooriya and pastor Jerome Fernando have apologised for offending and hurting the religious sentiments of the Buddhist population. They made an attempt to remedy the situation when they realised the hurt, the anger and the opposition they had generated. This is not the first time that such hurtful and offensive comments have been made by members of one ethno-religious community against members of another ethnic-religious community. Taking advantage of this fact the government is arguing the case for the control of social media and also the mainstream media. It is preparing to bring forward legislation for a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission that would also pave the way to imprison journalists for their reporting, impose fines, and also revoke the licences issued to electronic media institutions if they impact negatively on national security, national economy, and public order or create any conflict among races and religions.

In a free society, opportunities are provided for people to be able to air their thoughts and dissents openly, be it at Hyde Park or through their representatives in Parliament. The threat to freedom of speech and to the media that can arise from this new law can be seen in the way that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which is the world’s standard bearer on civil and political rights has been used and is being abused in Sri Lanka. It was incorporated into Sri Lankan law in a manner that has permitted successive governments to misuse it. It is very likely that the Broadcast Regulatory Commission bill will yield a similar result if passed into law. The arrest and detention of comedian Natasha Edirisooriya under the ICCPR Act has become yet another unfortunate example of the misuse of a law meant to protect human rights by the government. Pastor Jerome Fernando is out of prison as he is currently abroad having left the country a short while before a travel ban was delivered to him.


The state media reported that a “Police officer said that since there is information that she was a person who was in the Aragalaya protest, they are looking into the matter with special attention.” This gives rise to the inference that the reason for her arrest was politically motivated. Comedian Edirisooriya was accused of having violated the provisions in the ICCPR in Section 3(1) that forbids hate speech. Section 3(1) of the ICCPR Act prohibits advocacy of hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, violence or hostility. The international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has pointed out that in the case of Edirisooriya that for speech to be illegal on the grounds of being hate speech it requires “a clear showing of intent to incite others to discriminate, be hostile towards or commit violence against the group in question.” Amnesty International also notes that “When the expression fails to meet the test, even if it is shocking, offensive or disturbing, it should be protected by the state.”

Ironically, in the past there have been many instances of ethnic and religious minorities being targeted in a hateful manner that even led to riots against them, but successive governments have been inactive in protecting them or arresting their persecutors. Such targeting has taken place, often for political purposes in the context of elections, in blatant bids to mobilise sections of the population through appeals to narrow nationalism and fear of the other. The country’s political and governmental leaders need to desist from utilising the ICCPR Act against those who make social and political critiques that are outside the domain of hate speech. The arrest of Bruno Divakara, the owner of SL-Vlogs, under the ICCPR Act is an indication of this larger and more concerning phenomenon which is being brought to the fore by the Broadcasting Regulatory Commission bill.

The crackdown on the space for free expression and critical comment is unacceptable in a democratic polity, especially one as troubled as Sri Lanka, in which the economy has collapsed and caused much suffering to the people and the call to hold elections has been growing. The intervention of the Human Rights Commission which has called on the Inspector General of Police to submit a report on the arrest and its rationale is a hopeful sign that the independence of institutions intended to provide a check and balance will finally prevail. The Sri Lankan state will hopefully evolve to be a neutral arbiter in the disputes between competing ethnic, religious and partisan political visions of what the state should be and what constitutes acceptable behaviour within it. Taking on undemocratic powers in a variety of ways and within a short space of time is unlikely to deliver economic resurgence and a stable and democratic governance the country longs for. Without freedom, justice and fair play within, there can be no hope of economic development that President Wickremesinghe would be wanting to see.

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Girl power… to light up our scene



Manthra: Pop, rock and Sinhala songs

We have never had any outstanding all-girl bands, in the local scene, except, perhaps…yes The Planets, and that was decades ago!

The Planets did make a name for themselves, and they did create quite a lot of excitement, when they went into action.

Of course, abroad, we had several top all-girl bands – outfits like the Spice Girls, Bangles, Destiny’s Child, and The Supremes.

It’s happening even now, in the K-pop scene.

Let’s hope we would have something to shout about…with the band Manthra – an all-girl outfit that came together last year (2022).

Manthra is made up of Hiruni Fernando (leader/bass guitar), Gayathma Liyanage (lead guitar), Amaya Jayarathne (drums), Imeshini Piyumika (keyboards), and Arundathi Hewawitharana (vocals).

Amaya Arundathi and Imeshini are studying at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, while Gayathma is studying Architecture at NIMB, and Hiruni is the Western Music teacher at St. Lawrence’s Convent, and the pianist at Galadari Hotel, having studied piano and classical guitar at West London University.

They have already displayed their talents at various venues, events, weddings, and on TV, as well (Vanithabimana Sirasa TV and Charna TV Art Beat).

Additionally, the band showcased their talent at the talent show held at the Esoft Metro Campus.

The plus factor, where this all-girl outfit is concerned, is that their repertoire is made up rock, pop, and Sinhala songs.

Explaining as to how they came up with the name Manthra, founder member Hiruni said that Manthra means a word, or sound, repeated to aid concentration in meditation, and that the name was suggested by one of the band members.

Hiruni Fernando: Founder and leader of Manthra

She also went on to say that putting together a female band is not an easy task, in the scene here.

“We faced many difficulties in finding members. Some joined and then left, after a short while. Unlike a male band, where there are many male musicians in Sri Lanka, there are only a few female musicians. And then, there are some parents who don’t like their daughters getting involved in music.”

With talented musicians in their line-up, the future certainly looks bright for Manthra who are now keen to project themselves, in an awesome way, in the scene here, and abroad, as well.

“We are keen to do stage shows and we are also planning to create our own songs,” said Hiruni.

Yes, we need an all-girl group to add variety to our scene that is now turning out to be a kind of ‘repeating groove,’ where we see, and hear, almost the same thing…over and over again!

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