This is Emergency

September 29, 2007

By Indrajit Samarajiva

Woke up to like 5 cops in my living room, rifling through my stuff. Literally, there’s a guy with a T-56 looking through my DVDs. Re-tie my sarong and sleepily locate my ID. No warrant, no nothing. This is Emergency. Thank God we’re not Tamil. It’s a Tamil neighbourhood, which is otherwise lovely. Last week we saw this procession down the street, women with harvesty things on their head. Now I presume they’re getting their underwear looked through. Asking where they’re from, what their business is here. There’s an army female at least. Kinda cute.

But I digress. The cops here can come into your home, they can lock you up for months, anything in the name of the state. Understandable with the LTTE, but my problem is that I definitely don’t trust the cops. They are complicit in abductions, bribery, murder, etc. Don’t take my word for it, that’s the word of the IGP. The cops are undertrained, underpaid and overpowered. They’re not especially qualified or trustworthy to be looking through peoples’ homes at 5 in the morning, but that’s how it is. This is Emergency.

But the cops. They’re corrupt, they’re a hassle, and they’re everywhere. More than anything they just waste your time. Go into a cop-shed for a police report and they’ll sit there sleeping over their ledgers for hours. There are like 500 cops around and none of them does anything. The only person who has any authority is the Officer In Charge, so the system runs on connections and grease. This system runs slow, annoying at best, but leading to outright torture and murder in the worst case. Take the Balloon Man case, for example. Someone called in a bomb threat to a school, the police arrested the man on the received calls list and ended up beating him to death. He was the balloon supplier for a party.

I’m sure there are a great many good cops. It is, by nature, a noble profession. Unfortunately, more poorly-paid cops do not equal a few with integrity. Of course Mahinda scuttling the peace process has made us less secure and necessity more security theatre. This means we need more cops. Mahinda throttling the economy through money- printing, corruption (bloated cabinet, high positions and graft from his family) and war has meant that these cops get paid peanuts and trained not so much. Mahinda’s alliance with the LTTE splinter group leader Karuna and his tolerance of kidnapping in Colombo has corrupted the police force even deeper. I read in the Daily Mirror newspaper that Karuna members are going to start joining the Police Force soon.

So now people there can report the people abducting their children to… the people abducting the children. Sweet. Meanwhile, abductions and disappearances continue apace in the North East, (NE) as recorded by the Government Agent. There are probably more unreported. “HRW also inspected a report from the Government Agent (GA) of Jaffna, which had statistics from April to December 2006. During that time, the GA registered 354 missing persons. HRW visited Jaffna in February and interviewed the families of 37 persons who But I digress. The cops here can come into your home, they can lock you up for months, anything in the name of the state. Understandable with the LTTE, but my problem is that I definitely don’t trust the cops. They are complicit in abductions, bribery, murder, etc. Don’t take my word for it, that’s the word of the IGP.

The cops are undertrained, underpaid and overpowered. They’re not especially qualified or trustworthy to be looking through peoples’ homes at 5 in the morning, but that’s how it is. This is Emergency. But the cops. They’re corrupt, they’re a hassle, and they’re everywhere. More than anything they just waste your time. Go into a cop-shed for a police report and they’ll sit there sleeping over their ledgers for hours. There are like 500 cops around and none of them does anything. The only person who has any authority is the Officer In Charge, so the system runs on connections and grease. This system had “disappeared” over the previous year. Of these, in 21 cases the evidence strongly suggested the involvement of government security forces. In two cases the families strongly believed that the perpetrators were members of the EPDP (based on their accents, appearance and cars leaving in the direction of EPDP camps). HRW asked the Sri Lankan government

about the army’s authority to arrest or detain civilians in Jaffna, as well as the number of persons the army is detaining in its camps. The government replied that the army can arrest individuals under regulation 18 of the Emergency Regulations, and it is required to hand over to the police all arrested persons within 24 hours- (Daily Mirror). In the NE, abductors have to pass through government checkpoints, as do people in Colombo. While the army involvement remains unadmitted up there, the IGP has admitted that the forces are involved with the terror in our neighbourhoods.

“Inspector General of Police Victor Perera announced that the police had arrested over 400 persons since September 2006 on charges of abduction,including “ex-soldiers, serving soldiers, police officers and underworld gangs and other organized elements-” (HRW)” Note that things have gotten so bad that you can say soldiers, police officers and underworld gangs in the same breath. Organized elements. They’re all tainted with criminality. Anyways, this is the national situ, but these same uniforms are now in my house at 5:30. This isn’t even the local cops, this is some special force from Borella. Looking at my ID, opening my work bag, checking out my bathroom. They want ID from everybody. Doing their ‘job’ I guess, but this feels like odd to me. I do not want the State in my living room at 5 in the morning. Feel like I’m quartering troops here. I understand that the war is on, but I wish this government would clean its own house before it goes looking through mine.

There is corruption in the security forces. I am not comfortable with these people in my home. Before Mahinda searches me, he needs to do something about the abductions on our city streets. Before he declares the east ‘free’ he needs to get Karuna to lay down their arms. More fundamentally, Mahinda needs to either honour the Ceasefire Agreement or let it go. He says we honour it, but we’re obviously at war here. Under the CFA we didn’t have these widespread searches. We didn’t have the LTTE holding our airspace hostage. We had 4,500 more lives than we did last year. Life was better and it sucks now. Just for reference

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