ASIA: Women’s views on prevention of torture – Interview 33 

An interview conducted by the Asian Human Rights Commission. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC.

A Retired Lady Police Sergeant Talks About Policing In Sri Lanka

Seetha Kumarasinghe, a fifty six year old retired lady police sergeant, a Sinhalese from Mathale made the following statement, answering questions posed to her.

What do you think about the policing system in Sri Lanka?

I have worked for twenty five years as a police sergeant in the police service. Despite of that I feel severely demoralized and discouraged about the workings of the police department. Hiding behind the police dress, there are many wrong things that the police do and I have seen that for a long time.

Many police officers treat the police as their private property. They want to keep their own pride either in a good way or doing whatever bad things. They do not retreat from doing what they want to do whether it is good or bad.

I can give one example. There was a woman who came with her daughter to a police station to complain about the rape of her daughter. She came to get a complaint registered. However none of the police officers did anything to record the statement. Instead the officers began to make jokes to the woman and her daughter and to insult them in various ways. The mother and the daughter was placed in a very pitiable situation. Meanwhile, one of the officers made an unwarrented suggestion to the mother and the daughter and thereafter started insulting both of them in very dirty language.

What do you think about the relationship between the police and the people?

Today this relationship has degenerated to a very low level. The people have lost the faith and respect for the police. I can say that from my own experience. The extremely poor and helpless people come before the police to make complaints. And they want to make these complaints for the purpose of pursuing these complaints in courts. They don’t have the financial resources and they also don’t have connections. Due to these reasons, they cannot get anything done at the police stations. Due to these failures, these people have no faith in the police.

Let me give another example. I have seen one woman coming to the police station for many days to make a complaint but nobody took down her complaint. Later she came with a officer from the human rights commission. She came with this officer from the human rights commission because she was unable to get her complaint recorded earlier. Later she stated that her fourteen year old daughter has been abducted by somebody in the neighborhood and it was about this she came to complain. And the police officer told her that since the girl has been kept by the boy for several days, there is nothing the police can do, the only thing that the woman should do is to get her daughter to marry this boy. I was shocked to hear this because taking of a fourteen year old child is a statutory offence and it amounts to statutory rape. Now when a police officer goes to the extent of giving advice of this nature, telling that there is nothing that can be done except to get the girl married to this boy, what is the kind of legal relief that the people can expect from such a police.

Only because this mother came with the officer of the human rights commission, and with some non-governmental organizations, that she was able to get her statement recorded and to get some relief by way of taking the case to the court.

The mother and the daughter in this situation came to be shocked greatly. Due to either the ignorance of the police officers or due to their neglect, many criminals enjoy freedom. Incidents like this happen almost everyday and as a result people have become seriously discouraged.

If you had to face some problem, what steps would you take?

As I have been a police officer, although I am retired now, it is still possible for me to get something done. For example I lost my identity card once and I went tot the police stations on that issue, and I was able to get a statement recorded, because I was a police officer I could get that done quite easily. However I have seen personally that many people who came for similar incidents to the police stations, have to come back to the police station many times to get a thing like that done.However, even in I am so much discouraged about the police that if I can get something done in other means, I will do it ,rather than to seek help from the police.

What do you think about torture?

The relationship between the police and torture is like the relationship between the tree and the bark. These two things are so close and inseparable. Large number of police officers, the majority believes that they cannot find any information or correct evidence without the use of torture. They believe that it is very difficult to get information without torture. Police officers when they go for trainings, hear about methods of obtaining evidence without use of torture. The majority of policemen do not like to hear things like that.

The police officers get a very mean type of enjoyment by the use of torture. Often the officers come and share their experiences about the way they have used torture and the results they have obtained. Often it is even difficult to listen to the shocking, cruel assaults and torture described by officers in this manner. To give one example, one person was brought to the police station for robbery. He was about twenty years of age. He was tied by the thumbs of both hands and pulled up and down from the top of the roof and assaulted. Later it was found that this person has not done this robbery, the robbery had been done by somebody else. This way, the police often torture people without inquiring into anything and as they wish. There are police officers who don’t do this and ones who refuse to do that, but I am describing what the majority of the policemen do from my observations.

What do you think about the law relating to domestic violence?

From very recent times, that is, I think from 2005, there is a law relating to domestic violence. There are a lot of problems relating to the actual working of this law. The police officers have been allowed to play some role in effect in this law. The police officers do not show much responsibility when trying to deal with their obligations under this law. I have seen cases when some officer tried to take down complaints relating to domestic violence, others telling them not to get into unnecessary problems, not to create unnecessary problems to oneself by getting involved in this type of cases.

In a case where a man had caused serious injuries, in fact injuries which could have cause death to the child and the wife, the police did not even take the trouble to take the woman to the hospital and the get treatment. She was advised to establish peace with her husband and this kind of advice was often given in a very threatening way. Later it was revealed that this husband was a person who was a three wheeler owner and that he does not forget to treat the police with liquor in the afternoon. This is the way that the police officers showed gratitude to this man. The wife’s complaint was not taken and she was not helped even to get medical treatment.


Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-153-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Torture, Women's rights,