‘Discipline collapsing in police force’ - AHRC

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 04 May 2005, 17:13 GMT]
Discipline is breaking down in Sri Lanka’s police force, the Asian Human Rights Commission warned Wednesday, citing assaults and shootings of civilians by officers. “The cause of this collapse in discipline [is] the politicisation of the police force,” the Hong Kong-based group said. The AHRC also condemned Sri Lanka’s Police Chief for apparently condoning his officers’ use of excessive force against civilians.

Comments by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandra Fernando in a radio interview “were alarming in their attempt to justify police shootings of civilians,” the AHRC said in a statement Wednesday.

Spelling out a Lee Kwan Yu doctrine of 'discipline, development and democracy', Mr Fernando had explained the police killings “as acts of self-defense; the victim either tried to flee or harm the police officers, who then had to shoot them, leading to their deaths,” the AHRC said.

“The defence of such acts by the highest police authority is tantamount to the encouragement of such behaviour. This comes at a time when there are reports of numerous civilian deaths after arrest. … Any form of encouragement for acts of violation, including torture and extrajudicial killings, can only make the situation worse.”

“The earlier defense against police acts of violence was the use of 'minimum force'. This minimum force led to a spate of deaths in police custody through grave injuries such as skull fractures, kidney damage and the like.”

“Two of the latest cases involving such use of minimum force are the death of Wijaratne Munasinghe at the Maharagama police station and a husband and wife assaulted at the Ambilipitiya Police Station, as a result of which the wife gave birth prematurely, being five months pregnant.”

“Hundreds of cases of police violence have been submitted to the IGP and other Sri Lankan authorities. Everyday more cases are added, clearly indicating a total breakdown of discipline within the police force.”

“Under these circumstances, the IGP would do better to promote discipline within the department and ensure that the law is enforced according to established procedures, rather than discussing political ideology,” the AHRC said.

“To the credit of the IGP, he admitted during the radio discussion that the rule of law in Sri Lanka has broken down,” the AHRC said. “It must be said however, that this is not the first time the present Inspector General of Police as well as his recent predecessors have admitted this fact. Merely admitting and repeating this is not enough; the leader of the law enforcement agency must undertake to end this collapse of the rule of law.”


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