Policing, the power to protect and prevent : Sustaining Law and Order

President Sirisena addressing the nation

The law is the highest provision in our Constitution which enables us to live our lives with dignity. For a society to flourish, the law must be implemented without fear or favour. As we grow rapidly in a digitally enhanced environment it is indeed a challenge to consistently maintain law and order. This onerous task is bestowed on the Sri Lanka Police, which proudly celebrated 150 years of service to the nation, last year. Policing is the power to protect and prevent. The police are the visible manifestation of government authority.

At the opening ceremony of the South Asian Police Conference last year, the incumbent IGP Pujith Jayasundara said, “The Police needs a new kind of Officer, with a broad range of thinking. There is a shift from securitized policing to community based policing”. This is indeed the best approach as the nation moves towards a new era of prosperity for all communities. Mr.Jayasundara emphasized the role of the police to improve the quality of life.

I spoke to DIG Ajith Rohana (Legal Division) about the changes envisaged by the Police to establish better cooperation with the public. He said, at present there are 472 Police stations in the island and they hope to increase it to 540, to be better connected to the people. He added that the 119 Emergency response services which operate from Mirihana will be extended to territorial level. The CCTV operations will also be extended to major cities, such as, Galle and Kandy. DIG Rohana said that amendments are being made to the Police Ordinance which was first established in 1865 (the South Asian Police is based on the British model). Plans are also underway to open a Police University at Attidiya within the next two years. The Police hope to increase the intake of Tamil speaking officers, one of their primary goals being, to ensure that all stations have the capacity to work in Tamil and Sinhalese, which is a timely action, in order to ensure that people are comfortable and feel assured they can converse with ease, as Sri Lankans.

Recruits

When I visited the Sri Lanka Police College, at Kalutara last year, I was able to witness all recruits being taught Tamil language along with English. The College is headed by the dynamic SSP Damyantha Wijeyasri. It is refreshing to see new police stations being opened in the Northern Province after a lapse of many years.

Safety and security take different perceptions in people’s minds. Some feel secure on seeing an armed uniformed officer. Others feel secure if they are able to get about their daily chores without any hindrance. After the elimination of subversive threats we can now thankfully get about, traversing this land at day and night. I have travelled in the recent past to Jaffna, Trincomalee and Anuradhapura and observed the carefree manner in which people move about. Jaffna, especially, displayed a peaceful atmosphere as the resilient folk continued to move forward.

DIG Crimes/ Criminal Intelligence, Priyantha Jayakody said, 2017 has been declared as the Year of Prevention. He was pleased to observe that the rate of solving reported crime has been steadily sustained at 70%, which is indeed a reflection of good police work. He further said, during 2016 large hauls of cocaine were detected. Increasing electronic intelligence to combat crime is a top priority for DIG Jayakody.

Conflict

Commandant of the Special Task Force (STF) Senior DIG M.Lattif elaborated on the role of the STF in the post conflict era. They remain dedicated to ensure national security (which covers economic and political stability) working alongside, to augment the Police service with active patrolling in the North and Eastern provinces, where they have truly earned the respect of the people.

Year 2016 was marked by some fatal accidents, with bloody scenes. Road rage seemed quite rampant and one segment of drivers who allegedly speed are the private bus drivers. Road safety must also come under some new reforms and there should be an intensified campaign to create meaningful awareness to the public. Disciplined driving is a reflection of a refined society. In 2015 there were 3,058 suicides in Sri Lanka (2,389 male- 669 female, source - police website) .This is an issue that reflects a mild lapse in the desired levels of economic sustainability. Yet, one must also remember that regional development takes time, and religious institutions must do more to inspire such vulnerable folks emotionally.

As we journey into 2017, the overall trajectory of law and order does seem positive. But, we cannot be complacent. Asia has become vulnerable to threats from radicalized groups and transnational crime. The police of the future must be rich in attitude and resources. There should be a transition from being an enforcer of the law to being the guardians of the economy. The concept of “predictive policing” should reach every station. Protection of the environment is vital for sustainable development. The public also has an equal responsibility to work together with the police and maintain and secure a safe nation for all citizens.

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