IGP vs Minister
Posted on December 8th, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Never do government politicians who find themselves up the creek without a paddle scruple to scapegoat the police to save their own skin. They defend only their khaki-clad, blue-eyed boys who get into trouble by carrying out their illegal orders. Stooges in uniform stick their necks out boldly because they know their political masters will leap to their defence if they get into hot water. It may be recalled that the late President J. R. Jayewardene rewarded a servile police officer, who shamelessly kicked Vivienne Goonewardena and was, subsequently, found guilty by the Supreme Court for violating her fundamental rights. The JRJ regime not only settled what the court ordered him to pay but also promoted him, thus delivering a slap on the apex court across the face. Under the Rajapaksa government an IGP, who was about to retire, resigned, taking the full responsibility for an incident where the police shot dead a young protester in Katunayake; he was appointed an ambassador immediately afterwards!

Curiously, the incumbent government has defended a group of police officers who drew the ire of their own boss though they did no political work for the powers that be. Minister of Law and Order Sagala Ratnayake, in Parliament, the other day, disputed a claim by IGP Pujith Jayasundera that police had failed in Gintota during a recent communal riot. This contradiction has left one puzzled.

If the police had acted swiftly to seal off the trouble-torn area and clamp a curfew in and around Gintota the flames of ethnic violence could have been contained fast. Unfortunately, the troublemakers had ample time to wreak havoc, according to media reports. It is easy to be wise after the event, one may argue. Police are beset with numerous problems including a severe dearth of personnel and vehicles to respond to emergencies the way they should. There are situations where they even have to take tuk-tuk rides to crimes scenes. However, the question is whether the IGP would have blamed his men and officers without good reason.

Why did the IGP fault the police? He may have done so in a bid to help the government absolve itself of the responsibility for the unfortunate situation. If so, his move went unappreciated; worse, he was left with egg on his face when Minister Ratnayake cleared his men and officers of lapses.

The government was obviously not at fault in Gintota. The riot was not politically motivated at all. In fact, the yahapalana leaders acted commendably well; they went hell for leather to bring the situation under control and reassure the victims. (They also promised compensation but whether they are really serious about carrying their pledge expeditiously remains to be seen. The victims of the Salawa armoury blast and the Meethotamulla garbage dump disaster are still clamouring for compensation.) Had the Rajapaksa government handled the Aluthgama communal riots in 2014, in a similar manner it would perhaps have been able to avoid its disastrous defeat at the last presidential election.

Why did the government go to the extent of contradicting the IGP in defending the police? Perhaps, the government doesn’t want to admit there were lapses on the part of the police in Gintota lest the blame for them should be passed on to it. Police are so politicised that they are considered a mere appendage of the government in power and their omissions and commissions are usually blamed on the ruling party leaders. So, it may be argued that the government defended the police for its own sake.

Now, a confused public must be wondering who is telling them the truth. Is it the IGP or Minister Ratnayake?

Here is a situation where the Minister of Law and Order claims to be better informed of the affairs of the police than the IGP himself! Both of them cannot be right at the same time. It behoves the government to allay confusion in the minds of people in this regard. The Police Spokesman may be able to tell us who is telling us the truth. It is hoped that journalists will ask him for a clarification when they meet him next.

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