SRI LANKA: Reflections on the Constitution — Part 5 

Basil Fernando

Robberies- Police and 18th Amendment

October 11 Anuradhapura – Rs. 1,100,000 — Rs. 1.1 million
October 8 Nugegoda – Rs.1,400,000 — Rs. 1.4 million
October 5 Rawathwaththa – Rs.100,000 — One Hundred Thousand
October 3 Paliyagoda Wanawasala – Rs.70,000,000 — Rs. 70 million


Above mentioned incidents are just a few of the robberies reported in the news papers in the month of October. Beside these, almost daily stories of robberies are being heard from all parts of the country. What is more revealing is that several of the published reports mentions that police officers of various ranks are involved in these alleged robberies. In one instance, an ASP was caught with 8 other police officers, when they were engaged in trying to rob a Buddhist temple in search of buried treasures.

The engagements of police officers in robberies no longer surprise any Sri Lankan. Comments of ordinary citizens listening to such reports, are not one of surprise or shock. Instead, cynical remarks are made in such occasions, reflecting that people do not expect any thing better.

This loss of expectations relating to law enforcement officers reflect a dangerous situation. Such loss of faith betrays a bitterness and a helplessness among citizens.

Some time earlier, there was some hope, even though very limited, of some kind of reform of police through the 17th Amendment to the constitution. That has been removed by the 18th amendment.

People see police as those who are used by the powerful persons for bad purposes, such as rigging elections and abusing political opponents. Inturn, people also see that police officers from top to bottom, of being allowed to be corrupted. 18th Amendment is a guarantee for the “loyal” officers to have their promotions. Merit is no longer a matter of concern. Impunity is guaranteed, even if they engage in causing forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings and torture.

That explains why people have no expectations about police officers being able to deal with robberies and other crimes.

This situation is the direct result of the 1978 constitution. It has destroyed the morale in the police service.

What does this mean for the future? — What kind of future is the country heading towards?

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-113-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Impunity, Rule of law,