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The pride and privilege of having been a woman police officer

27 June 2019 12:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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To be a woman security officer to Queen Elizabeth II when she arrived in Sri Lanka (the Ceylon) to declare open Elizabeth Quay was a privilege, especially for a woman police officer. That is exactly what Claudine told me when I met her.   
It was indeed a privilege to have been in her security squad during the tour, she added.   
President Maithripala Sirisena was full of praise for the woman police officers at the recent passing out parade at Diyatalawa.   
This made me to inquire as to who was the first woman police officer to be recruited to the police service. It is a known fact that Sir Richard Aluvihare brought into the police service much innovations, in order to be on par with other police services in the world. One arm was to introduce the Women Police concept in 1953.

 

"She had to persuade them to agree to this ‘new’ idea of joining a Service that is the best for any woman, provided she could stand the strain of a Service to serve the people"


There were six in the first ever batch of police women and this writer came across, perhaps the first who now lives in retirement at Boralesgamuwa. That was Claudine Hansalatha Senaratne.   
She was born in Colombo but her ancestors are from Matale. Since her father was a Station Master, they had to go from one place to another according to the needs of the service, with seniority, said Mrs.Senaratne.
Mrs. Senaratne said she first studied at Visakha Vidyalaya and then went on to be educated at a number of schools. When she did her Senior Certificate, she was at Kalutara Bauddha Balika Vidyalaya.   
She said she was first an English school teacher, commencing her career at Udabaddawa Vidyalaya and then at Pothawatuna Buddhist Balika Vidyalaya. While she was there she had seen an advertisement calling for women to join the Police. This was something new for her and even for the country and she applied to this advertisement and decided to join the Police. As this was a prestigious service, she gave up her profession of teaching and decided to join, if she was selected.   

 

"Women joining the police were new and they had to be selected and trained by experienced hands. But there was no one to initiate them, to a service of this magnitude. According to her there were a large number who wished to join this new career"


By this time, she said she had not taken permission from her parents as they were against such a move. She added she had to persuade them to agree to this ‘new’ idea of joining a Service that is the best for any woman, provided she could stand the strain of a Service to serve the people. There were six others who had joined with her and she said she could remember Janita Perera, Lila Fakeer, Hema Gunawardene, Seela Gunasekera and Kathiri Arachchi.   
Women joining the police were new and they had to be selected and trained by experienced hands. But there was no one to initiate them, to a service of this magnitude. According to her there were a large number who wished to join this new career, but the selectors took only six women and she said she had been one. According to the available results at that time, she had topped the list.   

 

"She was first an English school teacher, commencing her career at Udabaddawa Vidyalaya and then at Pothawatuna Buddhist Balika Vidyalaya. While she was there she had seen an advertisement calling for women to join the Police"


Sir Richard, she said was enthusiastic about this wing in the Police service, and had even arranged to train the six of us in the United Kingdom. But it had never materialized at that time. However, she said that a British Police Woman named Ms. Gardiner came to Sri Lanka to train them.   
There was no Police College as such, but all of us were trained, she added - what she calls ‘On the job’ training. She said she was first appointed to the Finger Print Division under an efficient Superintendent of Police, D.B. Dhanapala. In this manner, the first batch was trained, with lectures being held in-between by visiting lecturers, on administrative and Police work.   
After her primary training at the Finger Print Division she was moved on to the then Central Investigation Bureau. From here she had been in service at various stations..   
She considered that her greatest contribution and what she is proud even today was the opportunity to be the security officer to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Sri Lanka in 1954. This opportunity was once in a life time, she added.   

 

"Sir Richard, she said was enthusiastic about this wing in the Police service, and had even arranged to train the six of us in the United Kingdom. But it had never materialized at that time. However, she said that a British Police Woman named Ms. Gardiner came to Sri Lanka to train them"


After eight years of service with the Police, she said she left the Service to get married to a Police Officer who retired as a Superintendent of Police. She said she has three sons, one is an Aeronautical Engineer who was in the Sri Lanka Air Force and now serves overseas, a daughter who is an Attorney-at-Law working for a prestigious firm of lawyers and the other was in the Sri Lanka Air Force as a group captain and retired for better prospects and the fourth is a medical professional.   
She said that the Police Service is a prestigious one and the best employment for anyone whether male or female. The present day Police has all the modern facilities and this adds to its uniqueness in the country and is on par with any other Police Service in the world. Though her period of service was short, she was happy that after a stint as a tutor she was able to serve the people in a different capacity. 

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