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Traffic Police : DO they leave room for corruption ?

14 June 2015 07:15 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


ribery, an age-old technique used by corrupt officials to hinder the public, has not  been eliminated completely. As much as the malpractice of bribery; traffic congestion also has immensely contributed to time wasting, noise and air pollution. The biggest drawback is the failure to reduce the number of extensive traffic offences that are reported every day. In an effort to minimize the malpractices and lessen the number of traffic offences committed country-wide, the Ministry of Public Order and Christian Affairs has introduced a new initiative whereby all Police officers will be empowered to  call to book traffic offenders while measures would be implemented to curb bribing.

Speaking to Daily Mirror, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Order and Christian Affairs T.M.K.B. Tennakoon said that a mechanism would be introduced to curb bribery. Highlighting the four key elements he said that as an initial step, the Police officers would be educated about the rules of law on traffic offence and bribery. “Secondly, we will consider increasing the salaries of officers reasonably in an attempt to prevent them from falling prey to such malpractices. As a third measure, we expect to reward officers who collect fines, and as a final step, we intend to change the attitudes of Police officers in general. Changing their mindsets for betterment would enormously help fending-off the presence of corrupt officials in the department. Apart from that, if any officer is found guilty of corruption in terms of bribery, the Bribery Commission will also take action against such individuals. In the future we believe that the Independent Police Commission would also act promptly if such malpractices take place” Mr. Tennakoon said.

He also said that the ministry has brought in an initiative to establish a Traffic Management Task Force that would be responsible to impose spot-fines on the traffic offenders and thereby reduce the number of traffic offences reported in the country.

“We have formulated a Traffic Management Task Force which we believe would address the issue of traffic offences and irregularities successfully. However, we suggest that it would be more helpful to get the opinions of various stakeholders from other ministries, the Lanka Private Bus Owners’ Association (LPBOA), Container Transporters’ Association, Three Wheeler Operators’ Union etc., who are directly or indirectly contributing to the country’s traffic” Mr. Tennakoon said. Keeping this in mind, the Ministry organized a one-day workshop last Friday with the participation of different stakeholders. The brainstorm session was intended to educate the participants on how to manage the traffic.

“According to a circular sent by the IGP, any Police officer can charge the traffic offenders. The Traffic Police officers already on duty are doing a commendable job, but we need more officers to bring down the number of traffic violations committed every day. Accordingly, all Police officers would be provided with a spot-fine book and would have the authority to charge offenders in the event of any traffic violations. The OICs of the respective Police Station would also be equally responsible. Moreover, the Police officers would be given a short training session with a view to feed them with a thorough knowledge of laws pertaining to traffic. For instance, we have displayed signage boards to caution the motorists about speed limits on many roads, and if a motorist is found to have violated these rules, he would be charged by any Police Officer who is on duty. With all these measures in place, and if people still fail to abide by the law, we will have to consider increasing the fine” he added.

Regarding the prevalence of bribery, Human Rights Activist and Attorney-at-Law S. G. Punchihewa stated that officers who serve in the urban and remote areas are allegedly taking bribes. He said that bribing is a serious offence, and the respective authorities are clueless as to why such malpractices are common between motorists and corrupt officials. “Giving or receiving bribes is a social problem and the government must start educating individuals from the grassroots level to prevent the spreading of such malpractices in society. The government has to reward those officers who are working sincerely while exposing those who are guilty of accepting bribes” he suggested.

Moreover, he said that if all police officers were empowered to order traffic offenders; then they should undergo a special training programme at least for six months. He said that the country needs more officials to control motor traffic, accidents and indisciplined motorists on the road.

To complete the task, the particular officials should undergo special training. He declared that gradually vehicles are on the increase and there should be an exceptional system to control the traffic flow. While explaining the substance of introducing a method like this, he noted that not only social problems and indisciplined chauffeuring that cause accidents; economical, financial and personal stress too contribute to  the mounting accidents and traffic congestion.  “Traffic congestion is a condition on the roads that could develop at any time. Recently, there was a high influx of vehicles and the consequence of that was the ever-growing traffic congestion. Traffic congestion could be characterized by slower speeds, long-time trips and increased vehicular queuing and these intensify due to adopting wrong navigation. Our country also faces this challenge and the government is trying to find a better resolution to curb traffic congestion. If all Police officers are empowered to charge traffic offenders, it would help only for a short period” he said.

According to Mr. Punchihewa, empowering the entire Police Force must be done as a short-term measure to help minimize the traffic violations. This is mainly because all Police officers are given a personal training based on the type of position they hold in the Police Force. Without a long-term special training programme on controlling traffic, they would find it difficult to bring down the offenders. He stated that the answer to these issues is to engage and train more traffic policemen rather than dragging others from their duties.

He said that it is more appropriate to appoint a special force that comprises not only Police, but also Army, Navy and the Air Force to assist the former to track down accidents and indisciplined chauffeuring. As an example, if the assistance of the three forces - male and female officers - were sought to assist the traffic policemen, the Government should provide them a good training on traffic laws. He explained that dragging other police officers to accomplish this task is not advisable because they have other duties to execute.

“War mentality is not good to control the traffic offenders, and that is why these officers should receive a comprehensive training and physiological strength to accomplish this mission.” Supporting the statements above, Mr. Punchihewa said that the government is engaging all three forces to control traffic movement at a special event or in an emergency but apart from that, why doesn’t the Government use the three forces on a daily basis to nab the traffic lawbreakers in the country.

Motorists also need to be educated about the subject, and there should be strict policing on the road. Last year, there were more than 35,000 accidents in which 2439 lives had been lost. He emphasized all these accidents occurred and occur due to the recklessness of both; the relevant officials and the motorists.  He stated that the country needs more recruits to detect traffic violators and indisciplined chauffeurs.

If the government introduces this new scheme to control the traffic flow, then they should consider increasing their remuneration as well. Before dragging the entire Police Force to handle this task, the government should also decide on the other alternatives available that could be put into effect to reduce the number of traffic offences. Using the entire Police Force is not a tangible solution to curb the problem” he said.

Furthermore, he added that the government must prepare a proper plan with more stringent policies to address this issue because the number of accidents reflects badly on our country’s image. Speaking to Daily Mirror, Police Media Spokesman ASP Ruwan Gunasekara said that according to the Motor Traffic Act, all Police officers have the authority to take action against traffic offenders. He stated that this was not a new decision. Explaining further he said that for instance, an officer who is assigned to the crime investigations unit could handle a traffic case, while a police officer who is appointed for the traffic unit could take charge of a crime case instead. He said that the traffic police would receive special instructions on how to control motor traffic as a new implementation. All police officers would receive a short-term training session on traffic management. Furthermore he said that if any police officer was found guilty of accepting bribes, he would immediately be dismissed or suspended from his duties.

Moreover, and under conditions of anonymity, a Senior Police Officer said that some officers-in-charge of the traffic division were untrained.

“It is not only the senior officers who lack training but also the traffic policemen on the road are often untrained. All of them should be given proper training and that is the best way to ensure good traffic management and minimize the spiralling number of accidents that take place.

Another suggestion would be to withdraw the excess number of officers who are providing VIP duties to Ministers and Deputy Ministers since the country is calm, and train them as traffic police officers instead. This would be a better alternative. He also suggested that all traffic police officers must be trained under traffic management at the University of Moratuwa.

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  • Mahanama Jayasekera Tuesday, 16 June 2015 01:43 PM

    In order to reduce traffic violations, Govt should increase the penalties. Penalty collection methods should change and for example, online payment system, should implement to reduce corrupt practices.

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