The arrest of the once powerful Deputy Inspector General Vaas Gunawardena on Monday in connection with the abduction and killing of a millionaire businessman last month highlights the plight of the police and their gradual loss of independence which has contributed immensely to the state of anarchy or lawlessness and breakdown of the rule of law.
For several years, mainly after the 18th Amendment was imposed and the National Police Commission lost its independence most people see the police as a political force largely control by the ruling alliance or the ruling family. That is why the police have acted with amazing skill and efficiency in tracking down the culprits involved in some crimes while the police appear to be handcuffed or behind bars in cases involving politicians. The latest fiasco or scandal was the case of Embilipitiya Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman M. K. Amila who was alleged to have used a T56 rifle to assault two constables who had arrested some traffic offenders on a motorbike.
For two days the Embilipitiya PS chairman was reported to have spoken at council meetings while the Police Spokesman claimed they were searching for him. Then the police said he had disappeared or fled the area and they were unable to track him down for eight days till the PS chairman himself surrendered to courts. Yesterday he was remanded. This is one of hundreds of cases where police have not acted or have been forced to remain inactive when serious crimes including murder, rape, child abuse and robbery were committed by underworld gangs connected to ruling party politicians. According to police intelligence, several top politicians are known to be directly involved in or providing political protection and patronage to heroin smuggling gangs.
DIG Vaas Gunawardena in 2009 was accused of brutally assaulting a Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology student Nipuna Ramanayake. The student also alleged he was assaulted by the DIG’s son and even the DIG’s wife. A few days ago Nipuna Ramanayake’s family filed a writ application in the Court of Appeal asking the Attorney General to give reasons why he failed to indict DIG Vas Gunawardena over the alleged assault of their son. The case will be taken up on June 25 while the Supreme Court yesterday took up a fundamental rights case filed by the student Nipuna Ramanayake but the hearing was put off for January 10, 2014 because one judge was not present.
Adding to the lawlessness and the breakdown of the rule of law is the role now being played by the Attorney General’s Department which not only opposition parties but independent analyst also says has been politicized. A few years ago the AG’s Department was brought under the President and since then its reputation as an independence legal institution has been severely tarnished or damaged with last year being one of the worst.
We urge immediate action to restore the 17th Amendment and along with it the independent police commission, and the independent Judicial Services Commission. If this is not done until a new Constitution abolishing the Executive Presidency is implemented then the country appears to be far down on the road to a dictatorship.