The recent transfer of 23 experienced cops from the Crime Investigation Division of the Police Headquarters, within hours after they raided an exclusive gambling den in Colombo smacks a witch-hunt, the farcical statement issued by the police spokesman, notwithstanding.
The officers were transferred within barely 24 hours after they arrested 45 well-to-do punters, following the raid of an elite gambling den located in a high-profile restaurant in Colombo.
Instead of plaudits, the cops were bombarded with orders barked out by politicians and their coterie to release the suspects. The duty-bound cops did not cave in and for their act of defiance, they have now paid a price.
Inside police sources say that a politically influential individual, who holds a position of power in political and defence establishment, has ordered the transfer of the 23 honest cops. This individual is known to be a close friend of the woman who operated the gambling den. It must be recalled that the police raided the same gambling den on 1 July, this year and arrested 83 punters. Soon after the raid, inside sources said, the police were ordered ‘not to go miles within the gambling den’.
The latest raid was carried out after a warrant was obtained from the Maligakanda Magistrate. It is incumbent upon the Court to inquire about the legal basis of the
ad hoc transfers of the officers. Should they have been victimized for carrying out a Court Order that would amount to a contempt of Court?
The police spokesman, SSP Ajith Rohana, has issued a statement, denying any connection between the raid and the transfer of the police officers. He claims the officers, who had spent more than a year in the Criminal Investigation Division, had been transferred after two cops in the division were earlier arrested for allegedly abducting a businessman.
SSP Rohana is in an unenviable position. His job is to please his bosses, failing that he would not last long there. But, the Sri Lankan public is discerning enough to distinguish facts from a fiction. Rohana should know well that among officers who have been transferred out of the unit are many who have not completed one year tenure in the unit. But, they were part of the raiding team, which appears to be the most convincing reason for their transfer. Therefore, the police spokesman’s purported explanation does not hold water.
Duty-bound cops have regularly been victimized at the whims and fancies of the politicians. The National Police Commission had not helped curtail this practice. When the honest officers are victimized for carrying out their duties, needless to say their fellow cops would be feeling reluctant to implement the law against the rich and the powerful, and opt to keep away from potential repercussions.
The police service is a noble profession. However, in the eyes of many a Sri Lankan, it is discredited, for rogue cops, bribe taking and blatant human rights abuses. When the system victimizes honest cops and favours the crooks, the public perception of the police is bound to further degenerate. The IGP and the Police Department should protect its duty-bound officers from political victimization. However, to what extent, they are committed to protect their own ilk and the reputation of their profession is open to question.
It is equally important that the National Human Rights Commission investigates the recent transfer of 23 officers of the Crime Investigation Division. And the media should highlight this travesty of justice and expose the political henchmen who have sent the honest cops to the gallows, because they implemented the law against a rich and powerful few, who though they are a law unto themselves.