(A tribute to our PC Ralahamy)
by Lalin Fernando
We citizens are safe in our homes day and night, in our workplaces and on the roads and in times of disaster or when people need to be rescued by fire and water. It is only because you are around 24 hours a day. Yet, without any saving grace, we have abandoned, humiliated, reprimanded, insulted and even physically assaulted you when it suited us. All kinds of accusations are thrown at you. Yet you never let us down in times of flood or fire, robbery or murder or even when old people have to cross the street. You are surprisingly polite even in the worst of times, especially right now during the unprecedented violent turmoil that continues. You are also the most beautiful font in the world.
The ungrateful public, led astray by Western emissaries, chooses to neglect everything. They join hands to accuse you of brutality when perhaps excessive force has been used. Westerners who used and those who did not condemn the use of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can never be the guardians of Asian freedom. They can never escape their guilt. They were ready to repeat their inhumanity in Korea (1950) and Vietnam (1972), and also used napalm and defoliants. It was always against Asians
However, whatever pride and high ideals you have joined in the police, you have had over the last 50 years to obey, among your superiors, those few gazette officers in high positions who have not never meant to be leaders. You have lost your innocence. They are afflicted with a common disease that affects most people in positions of authority in the public and private sectors of SL. They are all easily compromised by incorrigibly corrupt politicians of all shades and sizes. A few of them even looked like God was about to deliver a gorilla, but being in a hurry, they threw something indescribable at Diyawanna.
People from all walks of life, without exception, have asked you for favors when they have found themselves in legal trouble. These were not limited to traffic violations alone.
Law breakers including politicians, business people, professionals including lawyers have offered you bribes to look the other way. They then decried accursed and poured scorn on you when a few of you were tempted. The demonstrators are now throwing stones and attacking you with clubs, sticks and knives at the barriers, knowing that you have been ordered not to retaliate. But you resume your routine tasks day after day without a trace, knowing the danger and humiliation that you and the inspection mainly face.
You don’t hesitate like in the United States where about 20 fully armed police stood idle for eight hours while a sniper fired on the children in the nursery without incident. Nor do you pump around 20 bullets on an innocent (Brazilian) man like Constable Locke did at the tube station in England in 2005 after the bus bombings. You were the “kos ata” (sacrifice) that your superiors and politicians offered the public to pound on to cover up their multiple weaknesses in strategy, tactics, command and control, and concern for the people.
In 1971, 1988-9, and for nearly 30 years from 1979, when you were on the nation’s first line of defense, over 2,000 of you were killed. It included one SDIG and four DIGs. You, together with the defense forces, have protected the country from terrorists for more than 30 years despite the death of more than 100,000 citizens.
In 1988, an abominable foreign secretary, in the service of a traitorous president, asked an inactive IGP to order you to surrender to appease the terrorists. Six hundred (600) of you in the East, ready to retaliate, unquestionably obeyed higher orders which, unbeknownst to you, were illegitimate. Your comrades were slaughtered and buried within hours of their capture in the shallow graves they were forced to dig. No one has yet admitted their wickedness or been punished.
Out of overwhelming sadness and guilt, a few policemen have stood up for you, time and time again. Not a single politician cares. However, people have not forgotten the 600 even though there is no monument dedicated to them. They were sacrificed to the genocidal LTTE by heinous politicians who were ready to betray their countrymen to make a deal with terrorists. It was the price to pay for having trusted your superiors and obeyed their erroneous orders in the discharge of your duty in the service of Sri Lanka.
Today you erect barriers in the face of screaming crowds that are described by the blind as exercising their right to “peaceful” assembly, even as they throw bricks, stones and boulders with abandon. They threatened to storm the president’s private residence. They then attempted to isolate the prime minister’s home. They made their ‘peaceful’ intentions absolutely clear when thousands threatened the guards manning the main navy entrance gate at Trincomalia Dock Yard. They were led by a woman who shouted ‘kappapang, kappapang, (cut cut) then ominously ‘kelli ‘kelli (in pieces, in pieces). You stood firm and inflexible. Preventing total anarchy has become your daily duty for the past few months. You have succeeded so far. May you always.
The police have been castrated by a spineless leadership of their own senior officers and a completely bewildered and petrified political leadership. The bosses are only interested in themselves it seems. Police were and are being thrown virtually naked at human barriers without a plan, strategy or tactic with just tear gas and water cannons to violently thwart hostile and threatening crowds. They use the first “peaceful” protesters as bait. The mob leaders are well hidden in the back, reminiscent of the 1988-9 tactics of the JVP.
Today, driven to near madness by shortages of basic necessities including food, fuel and cooking gas and desperate in queues but with exemplary discipline, the patience of the people has tenuous. Their plight is compounded by the continued greed of politicians. How deep is the infiltration of society by anarchists and their consequent paymasters, that is the question.
Yet you Ralahamy and your immediate superiors in the field have done a magnificent job against all odds, in extraordinary times. We want you to. Few people realize that the police reflect society and not the other way around. You come from the same background as all of us. If you fail, we are also liable to varying degrees depending on how we knocked you down and not the other way around. When we criticize you, we must admit our own culpability in the example we set, interfering with your duties, selfishly using influence to achieve our often illegal goals for personal gain, and generally perverting both the law and order of the nation and the course of justice and by abusing your patience, your understanding and your tolerance.
Despite enormous sacrifices, you remain silent scapegoats for all the evils that dastardly politicians and their benefactors have bequeathed to SL. The former have for almost 75 years subverted, corrupted and abused civil servants in general and the police in particular. Many senior police officers in recent times and the Police Commission have been swimming with the political tide for their own benefit, compromising their status instead of standing up for the rule of law and the entire legal system of SL and you. Who cared? Yet you stood firm knowing that dealing with violent mobs relentlessly day and night was your unenviable duty. You haven’t had time to consider your family’s needs. We know it, even if the politicians and the media don’t care.
Meanwhile, the public, which includes corrupt ministers and MPs, prolific businessmen profiting from citizens living in cheap housing, lives safely and with little care in their homes and workplaces simply because you, Ralahamy, are there. You endure, despite being abused, vilified and unforgiven, day and night for the sins of your superiors and all politicians and other law breakers. It’s not just in cities and towns and on the streets, but in rural areas, in hills, jungles and farmlands.
Unarmed, using water cannons and tear gas and vastly outnumbered, you ungratefully hold barriers to prevent thousands of “peaceful” rioters from storming public places, including parliament. You then perform your duties the next day, unarmed as usual, on the streets helping people and maintaining law and order. Nobody attacks you despite the hatred spread by the extremists. The general public recognizes the debt it owes you. Yet, who would want to be a policeman right now?
The police, if they do their duty properly, will never be popular even if many wise citizens respect them. As difficult for their critics to understand or admit, the police simply want to do what the public expects of them in the performance of their duties. This is the philosophy of the police. Left to their own devices, they are an excellent force as seen very recently when a small child was murdered in Beruwala (July 2022). They found the killer within hours. Older people may remember how the headless corpse of a German tourist was found in the wilderness on Adams Peak Road in the 1960s/70s. The police found the murderer. How did it happen? There was no political interference. There are many more such amazing actions. The fact is:
You are a better man than me, Ralahamy’
(Apologies to Rudyard Kipling and Gunga Din)