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SRI LANKA: Five-year-old child kidnapped

SRI LANKA: Five-year-old child kidnapped

July 31, 2014

On Monday, 28 July 2014, an unidentified group kidnapped five-year-old Damindu Yasen Kumara. They arrived on motorcycles, with their faces covered by helmets and masks. They stabbed his parents, who struggled to protect their child. The kidnapping occurred in Katugampalagama, Meegalewa Police Divison.

Several media channels have broadcasted the heartbreaking voices of his father and mother. Speaking through the media, Damindu’s father, Mahinda Kumara, who is a rice miller, has said that he is willing to give up all his wealth in return for the child. He told the kidnappers to let him know that the child is still alive, and asked them to give the child food and water.

Now, on the third day after the kidnapping, there has been no news about the whereabouts of the child or about the identities of the kidnappers. The police claim to have deployed several teams to search for the child. However, these police teams have made no progress. There have been several child abductions in the recent past; on two occasions, the bodies of the children were found several days after the incident.

This incident exposes the failure of the government to carry out its primary duty, which is to provide protection for its citizens. It is ironic that the government has itself dissolved the most important institution supposed to carry out this duty of protecting citizens, i.e. the Sri Lankan police service.

In a recent speech, at a conference organised by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Mr. Upul Jayasuriya, explained to the audience the manner in which the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has become powerless to lead his own institution. The IGP has to work under the instructions of the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development.

A police force has lost the institutional capacity to work within a basic organizational structure in which the principle of command responsibility can be effectively implemented. This has created a dangerous environment for all the people of Sri Lanka. Paramilitary groups, like the STF, or the military cannot replace a functioning policing system. It is the task of the police force to provide protection to citizens by maintaining an environment in which the law is effectively implemented. If the police are institutionally paralyzed, crime is bound to increase; ineffective policing is what helps criminals most to achieve their ends.

The problem of policing in Sri Lanka arises from a fundamental change in the control of the institution following the 1978 Constitution. The government has no plans or intention to change its course and return the powers that have been taken from the police. This option of changing course does not exist as the government is committed to maintaining the power structure created by the 1978 Constitution, which was further strengthened by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. The basic idea behind the 1978 Constitution has proven a failure. But, the government does not want to abandon this failed idea.

That it is now possible to kidnap children from the hands of their parents, demonstrates how deep this insecurity has spread across Sri Lanka. Every man, every woman, and every child in the country is facing the consequences of the absence of a protective legal mechanism that can eliminate the possibility of criminals threatening their way of life.

President Mahinda Rajapaksha has proven incapable of understanding that the primary function of a government is to protect the citizens. He seems to think that development, without a basic legal framework for the protection of the people, is the goal. He endlessly talks about development, knowing well that the structure of policing in the country has failed. He is least perturbed by this failure. The building of roads and engagement in similar ventures is propangandised as an indicator of development. The failure of the police to protect the people does not, to him, indicate a failure of development.

The Ministry of Defence is a major agent in causing the failure of policing and, therefore, the failure of any real development. The government’s inability to understand the primary function of governance is a clear indicator that the government does not understand the basic arithmetic of development.

The father of this kidnapped five-year-old child cried out to the nation, and his cry was carried to all homes through the media. It is obvious that the sympathy of every parent and child would be with him and his family. However, the President of the country and the government are unable to respond to this cry that has risen from the depth of suffering of a family that has had their child snatched. This cry is resounds in every corner of the country. However, the government ignores it. Making various boasts about its success, the government has lost the sensitivity to listen to the cry of its own people.

The tragedy of this family, which echoes in the cries of many families, is a stark reminder to the Sri Lankan people: to have a government that bases its strategies on a failed overall idea is the gravest danger to citizens.

ENDS

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