The Sri Lanka Police welcomes its first ever batch of Tamil stream police recruits

Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP)
29th February 2008

Saturday February 16th saw a historic moment in the 141 year old history of the Sri Lanka police with the passing out parade of 175 new police constables trained at the Kallady Police Training College in Batticaloa.

The 125 young men and 50 young women who proudly marched into the parade grounds, escorted by the ceremonial band of the Kalutara Police Training College, comprised the very first intake of recruits to the Kallady Training College, the first police training school established in the Eastern Province. This batch of recruits were Tamil Sri Lankans from Batticaloa and Ampara Districts, the first recruits taken specifically from these areas and trained in the Tamil medium.

It has been a matter of regret in recent years that the Sri Lankan security forces have not been clearly multi-ethnic in composition. Though applications have always been called from all citizens of the country, for various reasons, including diffidence caused by previous language policies, very few Tamils have joined in the recent past. More recently, there have been fears amongst Tamils, given the terrorist approach that Tamils serving in security forces were specifically to be targets of attack, being denigrated as traitors. Tamil officers serving in the Department were threatened by the LTTE to force them to leave the service, and renewed attempts by the Government to recruit Tamil officers to the service did not have desired results. It seemed likely then that Sri Lanka's proud record of a multi-ethnic police force, with two recent Inspectors General of Police being Tamil, would not easily be maintained.

The government however is committed to such a record, and in the short term it is certainly essential to have Tamil officers serving in Police Stations in North and East as per the ratio of the population in the respective areas. Another important aspect is to give an opportunity to Tamil youth in these areas to serve their own communities, which will more easily allow the force to show the required concern and commitment.

Since there was a dearth of Tamil officers, to fill this vacuum the Inspector General of Police was instructed by H.E. the President to implement a special project to recruit Tamil officers to serve in the North and East. Mr Victor Perera, Inspector General of Police, discussed the issue with Secretary Defence, Col Gotabaya Rajapaksha and Chairman/National Police Commission, Mr Neville Piyadigama and received necessary instructions to proceed. A special team consisting of Mr S K Shanker, DIG/Traffic Admin & Road Safety, Mr K P P Pathirana, DIG/Recruitment, Mr Arsaratnam/SSP and Mr S Selvarajah/SP was appointed by I.G. Police to visit Batticaloa and Ampara and speak to youths and senior students in schools to encourage them to join.

There was an overwhelming response to the recruitment drive and about 1200 applications were received. Initially only a small number had been accepted, since because of the conflict many of these young men and women had suffered numerous disadvantages which had an adverse impact on their education, so that successful training presented a great challenge. However the successful applicants had clearly shown a high level of intelligence and potential. The usual educational standards as well as age restrictions were varied in a progressive and modern approach, to enable these recruits to enter the college and complete a four month intensive training which would enable them to return to their communities and serve them with intergrity and professionalism. The proposal submitted by the I.G. Police to facilitate the programme was duly approved by the National Police Commission so that implementation could commence expeditiously.

The requirement of establishing a separate Police College in the Batticaloa area was fulfilled by conversion of a few buildings at Kalladi, earlier used by security forces, to a training facility, through the special efforts of the Police Logistics Range headed by Mr D M M J Paranathala, DIG/Logistics. Mr Mahinda Balasuriya as Senior DIG in charge of the North and East coordinated the entire project on behalf of I.G. Police.

Training of these new recruits commenced on 08.10.2007 at Kallady Training Centre and the trainees were provided four months of training which included community policing aspects and language training. The intake of Tamil youths into the service, to transform them into sensitive and skilled Police officers for work in their respective areas, will immensely help the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which the Government has decided on. The next intake of 250 men and women will take place shortly and a similar programme would also shortly target the Estate Sector area in the middle of the country too.

These new training policies are in keeping with the commitment of the Government to fully implement the official languages policy, and develop confidence in all citizens that they are full stakeholders in government institutions. They will provide the backbone of the reawakening that the government brings to the East now, and which it is hoped will soon be extended to the North. All the recruits received copies of the Evidence Ordinance, the Penal Code, Code of Criminal proceedings and other such relevant legislation in the Tamil language.

After the rigorous training, as in all our services, the new recruits had their moment of pomp and ceremony, according to service traditions in a beautiful setting in the Province. The Chief Guest on this occasion was Senior DIG North and East Region and the Commandant of the Special Task Force Mahinda Balasooriya. He was escorted by the Directors of the new Kallady Training College and the senior Training establishment in the country, the Kalutara Training Colleges. Senior DIG Balasooriya took the salute of the new police personnel as they marched past to the sounds of the police band, with the Sri Lanka and Police flags flying proudly overhead, while the families of the new recruits who had come in great numbers looked on from their special enclosure. All announcements and speeches were transmitted in both Tamil and Sinhala throughout the ceremony.

In his speech Snr DIG Balasooriya noted that this great day in the lives of the new constables and their families was also a historic occasion for the country. He welcomed the participation of the Batticloa District Court judge and representatives from the Attorney General's department and the Peace Secretariat at the ceremony. He told the young police personnel, "By joining the Police you have promised to serve your people, your communities and your country. I welcome you into the Police as our brothers and sisters." He concluded by saying that "Now you are part of us, so please join hands with us and serve your people who are our people. I thank your parents and families for supporting you in this endeavour and ask them to be assured that their loved ones are in good hands."

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