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SRI LANKA: A new lie – police training without constitutional reforms

Basil Fernando

Peter Mountford who returned from a visit to Sri Lanka writes in an article ‘Sri Lanka’s hr and free speech problems need international attention’ (Seattle Times Editorial 27th February):

At the core of Sri Lanka’s problems is a rotten constitution, which gives the president near dictatorial power. Opposition members in parliament are easily bought through cushy ministerial appointments, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the president.

This core problem about the constitution is no secret or mystery to anybody except for some people in the so-called Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights who claim that they are writing a human rights plan for Sri Lanka. In that plan there is nothing that deals with the ‘rotten constitution’ that creates the all the human rights problems in the country. In fact, the rotten constitution is the real disaster that the country is faced with. Trying to make a plan to deal with the disastrous situation of human rights in the country without dealing with the rotten constitution is of course, a big lie. But for people who have become accustomed living with that big lie the inconsistency between a plan for human rights and a rotten constitution is not a big problem.

Of course in practical terms such a human rights plan is merely eye wash and meant to deceive only some foreign experts who may be willing to throw some money to create the pretext that they are doing something about human rights in Sri Lanka. One lie begets another and a chain of lies is created to the point where the creators can no longer tell the difference between truth and fabrication. That too is part of the human rights disaster in Sri Lanka.

One of the big lies in that plan is that Sri Lanka’s policing problems, such as the failure to investigate human rights abuses and the widespread torture that constantly manifests itself in incidents such as the drowning of Ballawarnum Sivarkumar at Bambilipitya Sea, the killing of Thilakasari at Inginiagala at the Senanayake Water Reserve and a host of custodial killings that are heard of frequently, is due to the defects of police training. That the rotten constitution has destroyed the command responsibility within the policing institution and thereby deprived if of the capacity to function rationally, does not enter into the analysis of the authors of this great human rights plan.

The impression that is created is that the failure to investigate into the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge or the abduction and disappearance of Prageeth Ekaniliagoda and the brutal attack on Poddala Jayantha are all due to defects of police training. However, for the average citizen these failures appear to be caused by the very planners and executors of these brutal acts. The very nature of these acts is such that nobody is allowed to investigate into these incidents. When there are politically designed acts of repression against opponents of the government, whether they be journalists, independent lawyers or opposition politicians, or other political activists, part of that design is also to prevent any real investigations by law enforcement agencies. Thus, the paralysis in investigations is part of the pattern of repression.

The crisis of policing in Sri Lanka is part of the crisis of the rotten constitution. When the constitutional safeguards on the rights of citizens are removed by political design there is nothing that the police can do. The will to investigate will return only when such investigations are made possible politically. Until that happens the human rights disaster in Sri Lanka will continue and of course, all kinds of plans like the human rights plan for Sri Lanka will be created by those who are paid for creating such big lies.


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