Ganesan-Alles clash over Police data collection ‘racism’
BY Mirudhula Thambiah
A heated argument occurred in the Parliament yesterday (23) between Samagi Jana Balawegaya Opposition MP Mano Ganesan and Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles over the collecting of personal details of Colombo residents, with Ganesan levelling allegations that the Police is collecting the personal details of Colombo South residents, targeting Tamils in particular, and Alles flatly denying this, claiming that such data is not only being recorded from Tamil residents, but from Sinhalese and Muslim residents as well.
Ganesan queried as to why the Police is collecting the personal details of Colombo residents, targeting Tamils from Bambalapitiya, Wellawatte, etc., noting that these are peaceful times.
“They are registering information even now. Why is this being done? Isn’t this a peaceful time? There is no war in this country. There is no terrorism. I have spoken to the President, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the National Police Commission (NPC) Chairman, and you (Alles) regarding this issue. This is being targeted at the Tamil residents of Colombo. Don’t do this. Usually, nobody would want to provide their personal details to the Police. Not only to the Police but to anyone. Do understand that well,” he added.
He also urged a moratorium to the provisions of the Police Ordinance according to which the details are being collected.
Ganesan further said: “My district is Colombo, from where people have voted me into Parliament. Even now, this issue (the collection of details from Tamil people) is taking place. It is being carried out in Wellawatte, Bambalapitiya, etc. They continue to do this from time to time. When I speak to the relevant Officers-in-Charge, they claim that this is done with the directions of the hierarchy.
“This should be stopped immediately. I know that there is a provision in the Police Law on this, but don’t enforce it. Bring about a moratorium on this. The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA) is going to be replaced by another law, but I call for a moratorium on the PTA too. Don’t use the PTA; and remember that this is a similar situation. Just because there are provisions in the Police Law, don’t go to houses enforcing them.”
Ganesan also noted that once such personal details are collected by the Police, they might then reach the underworld, fraudsters, and criminal groups.
“When the details are given to the Police, from there it would reach someone else. There are wrongdoers in the Police as well as in Parliament. There are some MPs even with murder and fraud-related allegations. There are such persons in the Police as well. Details that are being provided to the Police are at the risk of reaching the underworld, fraudsters, or criminal groups. I don’t want the Police to make use of the details of the people in my district,” he said.
However, Alles completely denied Ganesan’s allegations, saying it was completely false to say that Tamil residents are being targeted.
“Data is recorded from Sinhala and Muslim residents in Colombo as well. This is not only happening in your district or in Tamil houses. Not only from Tamil residents, records are being taken from Sinhala and Muslim residents as well. Therefore, this is not strange or new,” he added.
Alles also noted: “You have already communicated this to me. Section 76 of the Police Ordinance has been implemented even before the war. It was implemented every day for crime prevention. The reason is that if someone from outstation is residing in one of our houses, let’s say someone from Badulla had committed a theft, and then comes to Colombo and resides in Colombo; we therefore have to identify through this system as to who has come from outstation and registered in Colombo. This is not a sudden recent event, it happened before the war, and after that.”
To this, Ganesan queried: “Are you saying that you are going to continue this? There are not only people coming from Badulla to Colombo but from Colombo to Colombo and from Colombo to Badulla as well. I respect the law. I am a senior MP and have been representing the Parliament since year 2000. I am aware of this. If there is anyone committing crimes, please conduct Police investigations instead of going from house to house like during election campaigns. That is wrong.”
Alles assured that since Ganesan had brought to his notice that this process is continuing, he would check on it. “You did speak to me. If you say that it is still happening. I will check again and let you know,” he added.
Last month, Ganesan told The Morning that he brought to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s attention that the collection of personal residential details carried out by the Police in the City of Colombo had caused disturbance among residents, and noted that he believes that the President would take immediate action.
He further noted: “A Police official told me that they are checking whether ‘aragalaya’ (people’s struggle) activists are hiding in Colombo. I told him that I don’t think ‘aragalaya’ activists are residing in Wellawatte or Bambalapitiya. Be it ‘aragalaya’ or otherwise, they can only seek a person by naming him via an arrest warrant. In that case, there would be no issue. But, they cannot go from house to house to collect personal information.”
The Section 76 of the Police Ordinance states that every household should furnish information to Police officers of the division in which they live, of the inhabitants of the household, per the order of the IGP or a Magistrate.