SRI LANKA: Functioning National Police Commission essential in eliminating crime within Sri Lanka

The recent drug menace plaguing Sri Lanka has been linked to police corruption. On December 31, 2005 the Inspector General of Police was reported to have said that the country’s drug problem cannot be eradicated without addressing the corrupt officials abetting the drug cartels. Earlier in the month, the Advisor to the Ministry of Defence, Mr Kotakadeniya, a former Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police, was reported to have said that discipline–which is essential for efficient policing–within the police force was lacking.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomes these statements made by senior ranking government officials. If the statements represent a policy change, then 2006 may prove to be a happier year for Sri Lankan citizens. It is universally accepted that the essence of crime control is the control of the police department. This applies not only to drug related crimes, but all crime. If crime control focuses on eliminating crime and enforcing strict discipline within the police, it is sure to succeed. It is commonly said that allowing crime and indiscipline within the police is what helped crime to thrive throughout the Sri Lankan society.

In a previous statement (also published in the Daily Mirror on December 21, 2004) the AHRC noted that

The real cause of crime in Sri Lanka is the nexus between police officers and criminals. This nexus consists of simple and complex exchanges such as taking bribes to permit illegal trade in alcohol or other illicit goods, or desisting from investigating crimes and recording statements. Others involve much greater profits, as when drugs are traded. Others still include joint operations between criminals and police officers bent on committing crimes. Without this nexus, many crimes could not be committed, or if committed, would soon be exposed, while with this nexus, most crimes are readily committed, and become almost impossible to expose. Any real world discussion on how to prevent crime must address this nexus as its root cause.

At a time when senior government officers are admitting to the prevalence of crime and indiscipline within the police force, the National Police Commission is no longer functioning. The very purpose of the National Police Commission–by way of the 17th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution–was to ensure an efficient police service where disciplinary control is properly exercised. Towards this end, the Commission was given power of disciplinary control. However, after the term of office of the Commissioners ended in November 2005, new commissioners have not been appointed, since the Constitutional Council–the body to make such appointments–is itself not functioning. Furthermore, the media has reported on a cabinet decision to not make appointments to the commissions under the 17th Amendment. 

At present then, the body given power by the constitution to exercise disciplinary control is not functioning. The sentiments expressed by the IGP and the Advisor to the Ministry of Defense will not carry much substance until disciplinary control is exerted. Further, crime and corruption will continue to increase, constituting a national menace and threat to people’s security. This situation must not be allowed to continue. Those in positions of power must implement the provisions of the constitution without delay; the Constitutional Council must be appointed immediately, to allow for the appointment of commissioners to the National Police Commission.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-001-2006
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Police violence,