Feeble foundations cause structural cracks
Posted on November 15th, 2010

Dr. Tilak Fernando

Feeble foundations cause structural cracks

[Points to ponder]

* Train junior officers to build confidence

* To deal with crime, drug peddling, illicit liquor barons and underworld activities.

* Round up motorists who fail to dip headlamps during night

* Mobile patrol sqad should be conversant with motor traffic law


Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, known for his “ƒ”¹…”no-nonsense’ attitude, demanded “ƒ”¹…”urgent remedial action from the Police to recreate public confidence while addressing an assemblage at Katana Police Academy in April this year. “The Police priorities should change without further delay to meet the peoples’ aspirations”. It is the duty of the IGP and the Police top brass to revitalize the department by opening a new chapter by being responsible for maintaining Law and Order, he asserted.

Cardinal point the Defence Secretary attempted to drive through the toughened caps of the Police hierarchy was that junior officers could not perform effectively unless they are properly trained to experience and build confidence.

Lankan Police Force

One cannot point a finger directly at the Lankan Police Force wholesale as they are faced with an arduous task of satisfying every section of the society. Despite a few rotten eggs, which have been exposed occasionally, the Police Force needs recognition in dealing with crime, drug peddling, illicit liquor barons and eliminating the “ƒ”¹…”underworld’ activities progressively. But one arm of the Force which repeatedly gets rebuked is the Traffic Section for their languorous mind-set.

Time and again many have been crying out through the columns of national newspapers and TV highlighting the escalating road accident rate which cost the government billions in terms of treating victims in hospitals. Yet, all there is to be seen is some intermittent sporadic exercises, from area to area, during such public outcry. The tragedy is that there does not seem to have any uniformity in enforcing the traffic law! Naturally, such laws exist for the safety and benefit of all road users equally throughout the country!

Dip headlamps

On November 4, Daily News highlighted Police Headquarters decision to round up motorists, who fail to dip headlamps during night driving, according to a Traffic Law operative from 1983. On November 5, Daily News Editorial quite appropriately posed the question as to why this law has not been enforced since 1983 for the last 27 years…? How many other such Laws are confined only to a statute book and gathering dust?

What makes motorists to drive on head beams in the first place? Everyone admits it as an irritation to other drivers but in a rational argument, how much do the pitch-black road environments contribute towards it?

Take Baseline-Parliament Road as an example. It looks quite impressive, modernizing all the time, yet when dark befalls it transforms into a death trap where there isn’t even a firefly’s light! In addition to such misery, three wheelers, cyclists, agricultural tractors and pedestrians shoot across in the dark compelling drivers to switch head light on to avoid accidents. Simultaneously buckets of sympathies are with those Police officers deployed in dark and murky conditions to handle evening peak traffic in places such as Welikada-Nawala Road junction, turn off to Rajagiriya, Kotte Road linkage to name a few, who risk life and limb due to some administrative or policy blunders by authorities responsible for illuminating the highways.

Traffic laws

Why are roads in the metropolis in eternal darkness at night? To find an answer to this quandary has become equally difficult where a pecking order seems to be the order of the day when Local Councils blame the RDA, and RDA in turn pointing a finger at the CEB while the CEB blaming the local council and the latter criticizing the Municipal Council. During such administrative pong-pong some excuses are thrown out as “ƒ”¹…”non-payment’ of electricity bills! If that is the reason for this dead lock, should such governmental ham-handed situations be allowed to continue endlessly at the expense of motorists and the public? In such a state of affairs the Police decision to impose fines on motorists under mandatory regulations on head lamps can only be seen as putting the cart before the horse!

Let’s glance through a few traffic laws at random and see to what extent the Traffic Police have been triumphant in enforcing such directives. Under the Motor Traffic Act, we use right hand driven vehicles and must drive on the near side (left) of the road; overtaking should be done only from right. What we see today is a gross violation of the Law where almost everyone overtaking from the left! Why are Principal Officers in charge of the traffic section turning a blind eye to this dreadful infringement of the law perpetually?

Motorcyclists who parade in convoys during peak hours on pavements is yet another menace. When motorcyclists are allowed to invade pavements, it not only makes the Government’s efforts in spending millions on new payment erection a travesty but hampers its intended purpose and inconveniences the pedestrians.

Death traps

Push cycle riders moving about without lights on them can be called death traps in motion. Although it is also an offence under the traffic law, Police is turning a blind eye to such blatant violation of the law for which no answers can be found!

Enforcing the law on motorists driving at night without dipping their head lamps is certainly a good move but the question is how on earth a Police officer going to stop an errant motorist while he, himself, is standing in the dark? Today unfortunately a situation prevails where neither a Police officer on duty in the night could be seen filtering traffic from dark positions or officer’s whistle could be heard in the hustle and buzzle of night time traffic conditions. Training of Police officers on the Motor Traffic Law becomes paramount before they are thrown into the proverbial deep end in traffic duties as the Defence Secretary suggested. A mobile patrol squad fully conversant with the Motor Traffic Law at all odd hours empowered to monitor and impose heavy fines on all those who break the law would greatly facilitate in resolving the present chaotic situation on our roads. This should primarily start with nabbing motorists overtaking from the left as number one priority. A stable foundation is the basis for any rock-solid structure. In that sense, it’s high time that we take note of the structural cracks visible in the execution of the Motor Traffic Law and take remedial action prior to its total breakdown.

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In Focus – November 8, 2010

My dear Dr Fernando,

The crucial need is to find competent journalists who have the “ƒ”¹…”power and ability’ to MAKE OPEN the minds and eyes of decision makers. I honestly feel, we are privileged to have in you such an eminent personality, with that most important human qualities – a rare gem these days. A very big thank to you, on behalf of several millions of people here, who are often marginalised and disadvantaged in daily life through dis-Abling buildings and facilities, for that finest published in the best possible page and position, where only a blind can miss it. – Ajith Perea

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