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Standards of Enforcement

Standards of Enforcement

19 Sep 2023

The police response or lack thereof, to two crimes which unfolded on the same day in different parts of the country, highlights the lack of professionalism in the national law enforcement apparatus. 

Yesterday, on the orders of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne, investigations into the shooting incident that targeted Parliamentarian Uddika Premarathne in Anuradhapura was handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). The Minister has also been provided protection from the Police Special Task Force (STF).  

However, questions have been raised about how the Police responded to an attack on another Parliamentarian, Selvarajah Kajendren of the Ahila Ilankai Thamil Congress (AITC), in Kappalthurai, Trincomalee, during a procession that was carrying an image of a person who was being commemorated. Six suspects who are alleged to have been in the mob that assaulted MP Kajendren have been arrested. Meanwhile, a spate of gun violence which had gripped the country over the last nine months, has many victims and witnesses, with few such cases being pursued by the CID, or receiving the resources that the police often throw at cases which involve politics.  

On 17 September, a group of unidentified gunmen had opened fire at MP Premarathne’s car soon after he returned to his residence in Anuradhapura, Premarathne escaped unharmed. It is learnt that the perpetrators, who had arrived in a car, had targeted the MP who was walking towards his home after parking his vehicle. MP Kajendren’s procession was attacked on the same day. A family of three, who were travelling in a three-wheeler, outside the Maligakanda magistrate court was also shot at on the same day, leaving a six-year-old child dead, and her father in critical care. However, the child’s murder, which may have been collateral damage, has not received the due attention similar to the incidents of the two parliamentarians.  

According to the Police, Kajendren’s procession did not have a police escort, and the attack by a group of locals which saw a vehicle damaged and the MP assaulted, was handled as ‘best possible way’ by three police officers on traffic duties, who had happened to come by at the time of the incident. The Police was quick to point out that the procession and the vehicle which Kajendren was travelling in, was carrying an image of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) member Rasaiah Parthipan alias Thileepan, who died following a fast on to death in 1987, and that the LTTE is a banned organisation. Be that as it may, Kajendren, like any other citizen and as a public representative to the Legislature, has a right to be protected by the law. The fact who was being commemorated and its legality doesn’t absolve the Police from their primary duty of upholding the law. As unpalatable as it may be, Kajendren should have been afforded the same protection which Premarathne was given. Why the police failed to prevent such an attack, and why the Police was unaware of the controversial procession, which may cause tensions, remains unexplained.

Police has explained that no permission was sought to hold the procession, and that the MP was not travelling with police protection detail that all MP’s are afforded. However, Kajendren, rejecting the Police explanation of the cops’ behaviour on the scene doing their best, has alleged that the attack had been orchestrated by Police and military intelligence officers. This allegation should be investigated. What must also be looked into is, if Kajendren left behind his security detail and routed the procession through a neighbourhood which would result in an adverse reaction to his procession. If the MP knew his action would likely create a confrontation, as a member of the Legislature, doesn’t he also have a duty to inform of a possible cause of public unrest?

Nevertheless, looking at how the Police respond to such events, it is evident that there are many standards of law enforcement which are applied to different persons, with ordinary citizens seemingly having the least priority.  


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