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Loss of faith in law enforcers; hooliganism

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Cassandra recently was at the receiving end of an act of hooliganism. After the incident occurred, the thought of making it to the nearest police station and complaining did come to mind, but all three involved were unanimous in their decision that it was useless and a sheer waste of time. Also, that the hooligans involved might even cause more trouble to them since the police were surely on their side. The police now bow to ruffians too.

With a friend, Cass was returning home to Colombo after a perfect day of relaxation and a good meal in a happy, carefree atmosphere prevalent in the hotel down South. Bonhomie enjoyed was further enhanced by plenty of both locals and foreigners in the dining area. The service too was excellent and Cass and her friend were happily complacent with the assurance that people in Sri Lanka are so good.

Wrecking hooligans

They were on the stretch of road in Moratuwa which area has about a mile’s length of small houses and timber depots on the beach side, when suddenly they heard an explosive sound. The driver kept his eyes on the road and brought the car to a halt unhurriedly. The front window on the left, next to the driver’s seat, was shattered. A stone or metal object thrown at the car had done the damage. Cass’ friend wanted to drive on but the driver was seething, and Cass too felt the teenagers had to be told what damage their ‘game’ had done. The driver was warned not to give way to his rage. The boys on the roadside pointed to a small chappie as the culprit. He disappeared from sight in double quick time. Two women emerged but not a word of reprimand to the boys or apology. Instead, they smiled derisively seemingly enjoying the plight of the travellers. Cassandra was sure it was one of the four teenagers who had hurled the object aiming deliberately at a passing car. However, thanks came to Cass’ mind. What if a niece invited had joined the group? She would certainly have been given the front seat due to her long legs. What if the driver was less steady and incompetent and drove into a vehicle traveling alongside? Hooligans unchecked enjoyed their malicious fun and wicked games and others – in this case innocent road users – suffered. Getting spare parts for an old car is not at all easy.

Recollected was how a train traveller was killed some years back on a coastline train by a hooligan beside the rail track hurling a stone deliberately at the passing train.

When Cass narrated her misadventure two persons asked her why she had not reported the matter to the police. The instant reply: What use? Only a waste of time. Will the police of that area dare invite unpopularity among hooligans and bring danger on themselves? Nothing would be done.

Our ‘protectors’

And, thus, Cassandra comes to the point she wishes to make this Friday. People in Sri Lanka have lost faith and trust in the police and security officers. Justifiably so. Take the case of drugs – peddling and being addicted to. There was a strong determination by public spirited persons to at least curtail the drug menace. It is still raging. Someone said police officers may be hand in glove with drug peddlers. Another mentioned that right under their noses and very near police stations, drugs are being sold.

For interest’s sake, Cassandra googled the term ‘The police’. Among much info she came across was this Q and A.

“Who is a law enforcement officer in the UK? “

“As a police officer you will work in partnership with the communities you serve to maintain law and order, protect members of the public and their property, prevent crime, reduce the fear of crime and improve the quality of life for all citizens.”

Cass actually drooled at the possibility of us having such a police force. Is it impossible? Not at all! If police officers do their duty; abide by an oath taken on passing out of training; do what they are paid to do; take what they are called upon to do as a commitment, the present police will act like the ideal officer in the answer quoted above. Ideal police officers are far from improbable. If they follow their allocated job description, they would be officers who serve as stipulated above. We older persons remember how respected and trusted the police force was in the 1950s and 60s. Colonial training was still fresh and corruption was unheard of in public service. The police then approximated the definition given above. This was before corruption became a cancer in civil society; before the police kowtowed to politicians; and, of course, did the minimum but earned the maximum, even resorting to dishonest means.

Root of evil

In both cases – hooligans and police – Cassandra makes bold to blame those in high positions and more especially politicians and those wielding power in government. How and why can hooliganism be traced to VIPs and those in Parliament? Cass does not need to waste the reader’s time by detailing that breeding ground and breeders; also, the encouragement for foul, anti-social behaviour. Stated simply it all lies with most of the kapati-suited MPs; and of a certain party particularly.

Just one incident proves how hooliganism was shown to be a pleasurable practice to be imitated, exhibiting as it does anti-social mightiness. Cass refers here to the behaviour of mostly SLPP MPS who damaged Parliament property, were utterly rowdy and a physical danger to the Speaker as he braved it in to his damaged chair, when Prez Sirisena attempted to hoist an upstart Prime Minister while Ranil W was the rightful PM.

The police are vast in number, seemingly disproportionate in number to the population of the land. Maybe a half of the police force is on duty providing security to hundreds of VIPs and politicians. Most of it unnecessary and a waste of police manpower. Barring police escorts for the President, Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, Chief Justice and one or two others, all other top government servants (word used deliberately) and Ministers, MPs and such like should travel unescorted. After all, facing any likely danger is an accepted job/ position hazard of theirs. Risks should be accepted alongside all the perks and benefits enjoyed.

Of course, society itself has deteriorated as epitomised by those two Moratuwa mothers who smirked at one of their offspring’s stone hurling. This deterioration in morality and behaviour would certainly improve if the police carried out their duties justly and diligently. Such persons do not listen to advice of religious leaders or elders and betters. Strong arm tactics are what they respond to. Hence the dire need for an efficient, unbiased police force.

Intrusion into policing

Vigilantes can be good persons or sometimes rough and ready ruffians. Whoever they are, they step in when, or because, the police fail to carry out their duties. Again, the citizenry losing faith in those who have to ensure security. An onlooker narrated this story. On his way to Colombo from Kelaniya he saw two young men strapped onto lamp posts or whatever, being mercilessly beaten with poles by a group of very angry men. They shouted they would break the two youths’ arms and legs so they would never steal again. The two had snatched the necklace of a woman, which was retrieved by quick-to-respond bystanders who were now impinging on law enforcement and punishment. Cass felt pity for the two youth as their limbs were in danger of permanent damage. Others spat out that the two deserved what they got. A third said they would have got even worse if handed over to the police.

This incident epitomises what happens every day somewhere in our country, and reveals much about present day society. Sri Lanka is full of decent people but because its systems fail, persons’ minds are poisoned and danger and insecurity stalk the land.

Cassandra ends her complaint and comment with the question: Can we hope for improvement in the general behaviour of our people and in those whose job it is to ensure security in the country?

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