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An experience at Bibile and Galle MP Dahanayaka scolding me for late night call

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(Excerpted from the memoirs of Senior DIG (Retd.) Kingsley Wickramasuriya)

Another interesting episode was the complaint I received against Bibile Police station. According to a petition addressed to me, it was alleged that the complainant was beaten up by another party when he went to Bibile on some business and with the assistance of the police, a case had been filed in MC Moneragala against him, manipulating the facts, whereas he was the real victim.

On the face of it, I saw some injustice had been done and decided to investigate. Since the allegations were pointing the finger at the OIC and his staff, I decided to take HQI Badulla for the investigation. But as the HQI was unavailable, I decided to take the next senior officer available who happened to be a senior SI. We proceeded to Bibile police station and started our investigation.

The evidence collected revealed that the complainant had been thoroughly beaten up by his political opponents causing him grievous injuries and that Bibile Police had aided and abetted them by filing a case in MC Moneragal against the complainant making him an accused. On the evidence available those civilians responsible for the serious crimes committed and the police officers who aided and abetted were all arrested and were to be taken to Badulla to be produced in Courts the next day.

As we were nearing the completion of the investigation the MP for Bibile appeared at the police station and requested bail for the civilian suspects. When he was told that the offenses committed by the suspects were serious, bail was not permissible and that they had to be produced in courts, he was not pleased at all and left the station swearing to get them out.

A little later I received information that an attempt would be made to rescue the suspects being taken to Badulla. I called OIC Lunugala to send a backup party so that any rescue attempt will be thwarted. Eventually, the suspects were taken to Badulla and remanded the following day.

Early next morning, the SP was on the phone. He called me at home and was furious that I had remanded ‘his police officers’ and questioned how dare I resorted to that type of action without asking him. What I learned from his conversation was that I had created a politically explosive situation by taking action against the errant parties and that complaints had been made to the political bosses in Colombo.

I was later to learn that it was home and a home affair in that the complainant party belonged to Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake’s faction and the accused party was a follower of the faction belonging to the Minister of State J.R. Jayewardene. They in turn had taken up the matter with the IG and that is why the SP was upset. He calmed down when he heard my side of the story and called for a report.

I prepared a report on the incident and submitted it to the SP the same day. On reading the report the SP was in complete agreement with the action taken by me and made his recommendation to IG Eleric Abeygunawardena through the Range DIG, AC Dep. Back came the file from IG with strictures against the OIC directing that disciplinary action be taken against him.

In spite of that, I received transfer orders out of the Badulla Division to the Intelligence Services Division, confirming the faith that the department had in me. My Range DIG was constantly in contact with me about the transfer. Later, however, I was asked to go in charge of the Galle (Inland) District to which I agreed without hesitation knowing the predicament of the department.

I knew that it was not a punishment and that the department backed me. When transferred even at short intervals I never protested. I took it as a challenge and an opportunity to gather experience and travel the countryside. I was the winner for by the time I reached the top I was one of the most experienced officers that had gone through the mill and I knew every aspect of the department.

On the day of the transfer when I called on the SP to bid him farewell, he told me that when I came on transfer to the District my reputation had preceded me that, I was supposed to be an SLFP supporter. So, he was watchful to see whether I would work on party lines. But having watched me closely he was convinced that I had no party politics and that I did my duty impartially. He wished me well. We departed as friends which lasted even after his retirement and until his demise.

Galle

Superintendent Baba Ram Dole was in charge of the Galle Division at the time I reported there. Later on, Superintendent Y.D. Senarath took over from him. Galle Division consisted of Galle (Coastal), Galle (Inland), and Ambalangoda Police Districts. Superintendent Dole was a father figure and carried no political prejudices against me. I replaced ASP Wijesinghe (Galle Inland) popularly known as Lanka Matha on his sudden demise.

There again I had several police stations to look after, starting from Baddegama, Poddala, Nagoda, Hiniduma, Yakkalamulla, and eventually when I took over Galle Coastal District I had to look after Galle, Galle (Harbour), Hikkaduwa, Habaraduwa, and Ahangama. Galle (Inland) was a rural district mostly surrounded by tea and rubber estates while the Coastal District was a different kettle of fish with seafaring folks and an urban population to deal with.

As usual, I kept the district alert with my surprise visits day and night keeping the errant officers in their place. On one of the visits in the middle of the night to Hikkaduwa Police Station, I checked on one of the night patrols in the vicinity and traced one of the patrolling officers to his quarters fast asleep. I took him along with me to the police station and was recording his statement when the other partner appeared at the station with a cooked-up story to my amusement. Both were interdicted on the spot for neglect of duty etc. and were later dealt with disciplinarily.

On another occasion, while I was in office a person known to be an Island Reconvicted Criminal (IRC) appeared before me with information of the complicity of a police constable attached to the Crime Branch of the Galle HQ station in the picking of pockets taking place at the Galle bus stand. Having taken serious notice of the information given I called the OIC, DIB (District Intelligence Bureau), and asked him to verify the information.

He went out to the town and returned and confirmed the information giving it credibility. He had found out that there had been an incident of picking a pocket at the bus stand, and that a PC attached to the Crime Branch of the Galle HQ Police station had traced the offender and returned the wallet to the complainant without even recording his statement and thereby letting the offender go Scot-free.

This was a suppression of a Crime, a serious departmental lapse.

The constable concerned had earned a good name in the branch and the affection of his superiors as a hardworking officer who was doing well. Because of his good record, I called the constable to my office, confronted him with the information, and asked him to own up before starting an official investigation so that he would have the chance of mitigation. Despite repeated warnings, he denied the allegations.

I then started investigations in earnest during which I found that the victim of the crime could not be traced to record his statement as his contact details were not available. Later I came to know that the PC who had his contact details had persuaded him against coming forward, thinking that that would deter me from taking disciplinary action. I completed my investigations without the statement from the victim and interdicted the PC on the available evidence.

At the disciplinary inquiry held against him later, he took up the defense that the charges cannot proceed without a complainant (meaning of the victim). I, however, took up the position that I represented the department as the complainant, being the injured party suffering loss of reputation or ill fame in the eyes of the public. The file went up to the Range DIG who recognizing the seriousness of the offense dismissed the PC from the service. This was a good eye-opener for those officers who gave the PC wrong advice on misplaced sympathy.

Another interesting incident from my stay in Galle was my interaction with the MP for Galle. Dr. W Dahanayake, a former prime minister and a legendary character known for tolerating no nonsense from any public servant. Many a police officer had got marching orders due to his intervention. However, I have had no brush with him. His nephew, Vijaya Dahanayake, was his Secretary. Vijaya was a thorough gentleman and an amenable person who knew to give respect where it was due.

On several instances, he would talk to me on behalf of his uncle over matters relating to the constituents of his electorate. I had no problem looking after them to his satisfaction if it was something that I could do according to the law. If not, I would tell him why and he understood. Dr. Dahanayke and Vijaya both appreciated forthrightness. It became clear to me that those who got into hot water with the MP were those who were not forthright in their dealings.

One night around 7.30 pm Dr. Dahanayake called me home over the phone and informed me of a complaint of assault by Habaraduwa Police on one of his constituents. I immediately got down the complainant party to Galle Police Station, recorded their statements, and proceeded to Habaraduwa police station. After having completed the investigation came back and phoned the MP to inform him of the results of my investigation.

The person alleged to have been assaulted by the police was a wanted criminal who had been arrested by the police on a complaint of house breaking and theft for which no police bail was available. I could barely finish giving him the account when he dismissed me angrily for disturbing him late at night. When I completed the investigation no further action could be taken owing to the contradictory statements of the witnesses.

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