"The arrogance of the Sri Lankan police never ceases to amaze me. They come up with these stories almost every month and because the rule of law situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated to the point where there is no command responsibility they get away with it. From the Inspector General of Police all the way down to the Police Constable on the street, there is no accountability."
by Stewart Sloan
(The opinions expressed at the author's own)
(September 24, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is an almost weekly occurrence now that the Sri Lankan police report the shooting to death in custody of a criminal when he attempted to throw a hand grenade at the officers. I am not sure what annoys me more, the incredibly poor standard of policing in the country or the fact that the Sri Lankan police think that we are all idiots.
NEWS: UNDERWORLD LEADER KILLED IN POLICE FIRE
September 22, 2010: Dematagoda Kamal, said to be a leader in the underworld, died in police fire at Diddeniya in Hanwella last night.
According to police, the suspect had been arrested last evening in the Diddeniya area in Hanwella along with a pistol and ammunition.
A high-ranking police officer said that when the suspect was taken to the Diddeniya area to locate a firearm and a haul of drugs, he had attempted to lob a hand grenade at them forcing police to open fire..........
- From an article published in Newsfirst.lk on the 23 September)
Let us take the typical scenario (two of which occurred within the last few weeks). A criminal is arrested for whatever reason and the police take him to a weapons cache. During the proceedings the criminal, no doubt a heinous and dangerous person, grabs a hand grenade and attempts to throw it at the officers; as a result of this cowardly act they bravely shoot him dead. The only witnesses to the incident are the police officers themselves so there is no one of an independent nature to corroborate their version of the events.
But, please, let us take a close and serious look at this scenario.
Any suspect, whether a known criminal or not, when being transported outside a police station should be securely handcuffed and closely guarded. This is not just for the protection of the police officers but also the suspect himself. Under Sri Lankan law as well as international law, a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. It does not require 15 years of experience in policing to know this. It is simply common sense. Any suspect must be considered dangerous until proven otherwise and it is recognised procedure to ensure the safety of the accompanying officers and the suspect himself at all times. Yet amazingly, all these suspects that are taken to a weapons cache to show it to the officers are able to grab hold of a grenade which they then attempt to throw at the officers. This raises several questions.
Anyone who has ever seen a war film will know that grenades are indiscriminate killers. They explode. They throw out shrapnel in all directions, killing the targets and, in close quarters, the person who threw it as well. So, the obvious question is, why would anyone throw a grenade in the knowledge that it is going to kill them as well as their intended targets. I suppose it is feasible that one out of every five criminals might be suicidal and uncaring as to whether they live or die, but all of them?
If the suspects have been keeping a cache of weapons for any length of time they would be in the position to know exactly what was there other than the grenades, perhaps a pistol, a T56 or some other weapon more suitable to killing or wounding the people around you without killing yourself at the same time. Why then do the suspects always opt for the grenade?
And then of course there is the obvious question: where do all these grenades come from in the first place? Is the Sri Lankan army so lax with its ordnance that it habitually looses the odd dozen grenades? If that is the case then the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense has a lot to answer for. And when these grenades do go missing what action is taken? Is anyone held responsible? There must be a tremendously profitable black market for these weapons if the street level criminals can get hold of them.
The arrogance of the Sri Lankan police never ceases to amaze me. They come up with these stories almost every month and because the rule of law situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated to the point where there is no command responsibility they get away with it. From the Inspector General of Police all the way down to the Police Constable on the street, there is no accountability.
It is time for the people of Sri Lanka to say enough. It is time for the Magistrates to question the continuing incidence of the extrajudicial killing of suspects (against one of whom just recently there was no arrest warrant and no record of arrest. The first information that the Magistrate had that the fellow had been arrested in the first place was when the police officers told the court that they had killed him because he had tried to throw a bomb at them). The police know full well that without any independent witnesses the Magistrate has no option but to accept their version of the story. But when the same story is presented to the courts time and time and time again, is it not the duty of the Magistrates to question it?
It is the opinion of the author that both the Inspector General of Police and Secretary of the Ministry of Defense have some explaining to do; the IGP for the laxity of his officers in transporting criminals and the Secretary for the seemingly constant supply of hand grenades to the underworld. As for the arrogance of the police officers themselves, that is the responsibility of every Sri Lankan that remains silent when yet another suspect is extrajudicially killed for trying to throw a hand grenade at officers of the Sri Lankan Police Service.
Stewart Sloan served as a civilian officer for seven years with the Special Branch of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force. In December 2001 he was awarded a Commanding Officer's Commendation for "Attention to duty of a high order displayed in the pursuit of an operation of major security importance." Stewart currently words as an Editorial Assistant for a human rights NGO based in Hong Kong.