Friday, July 27, 2007

We are all at the butt end of the police

I cannot but put this incident into writing. It was a humiliating experience that happened today.

I need special permission in the form of a pass to use my vehicle in many parts of Colombo and one rarely knows what these areas are until one is informed of this at a check point. I was stopped at a check point for the first time in over 30 months and told I need a permit to enter the High Security zone in Green Path a road I have known and been on since childhood as my grandparents and many of my relatives live on this road. I was on my way to make weekly delivery last Monday and stopped and my vehicle was threatened with being impounded. This was the first I knew about the HSZ that applied to Green Path though I knew I could not go to Fort on account of it.

As part of getting the permission, the form I got to complete, had a provision that I as a driver or passenger require a police report. I have no clue what a police report is, but as both my drivers licence and my Identity card are in the Colombo 4 or Bambalapitiya address of my parents, I went to the Bambalapitiya police station to obtain a police report.

The OIC (officer in charge) first belittled me for the fact that I did not know the pettah police station was where I had to get a form. Why should I know that police station, especially as I have not been arrested or had anything to do with the law. Then he said I need a certificate from the grama sevaka official before releasing a report. All the GS does is look to see if I am on the electoral roll and if I am not he will not give me a letter. Additionally in reality as the Colombo GS does not know the people his letter is almost worthless in a security situation, and I did tell the OIC it is impossible to find him as he is not where he should be and Ihave to go all the way to Kollupitiya to look for him all in the HSZ I cannot even enter in my vehicle!!

There was a sympathetic police man who implored the OIC to give me a letter as I have lived all my life at this address technically speaking. He still would not budge as he wanted a in addition to the GS letter another from the GS at the farm in Godagama as well to say I have not had any trouble with the law and also to get a police report from there. I implored that all I wanted was a letter from him saying as per his records and only his that I have not had any criminal connections and I was not expecting him to vouch for my clean record worldwide!!

I explained that what he was asking me to do was circuitous as everyone will want me to get a report from the other parties before releasing a letter to me and that I would never be able to get what I wanted and then I would not be able to sell my produce the sole source of my revenue with which to pay my expenses, let alone have a few rupees for me to live on.

It is most frustrating when bureaucracy gets the better of common courtesy and where I was made to feel like a criminal and beholden to them when in fact they are paid to serve us the people and not in reverse.I was not using influence, just requesting a letter to enable me to carry on my work.

He was still non committal saying if even my employees committed a crime he would be indited. Could he not understand that even with him having done all the work correctly even I am unable to stop an employee in my absence committing a crime.Its just sheer lunacy the argument he was going after. Was he indirectly asking for a bribe!!

Finally after much persuasion and pleading on my part and two police officers asking him to let me have it he relented, but not without me first having to get copies from outside of the ID card and drivers licence as their machine were broken and then they typed a letter in Sinhalese and made a mistake in typing my ID card number, which had I not spotted it would have also led to the rejection of my application, due to the carelessness of the police man doing the typing.

What a comedy our law enforcement has become, when law abiding citizens in this country have to face this kind of trouble. I dread to think if I was treated like this how others would be too, especially minority communities.

I would add a caveat to this that it is not just Tamils or Muslims who face harassment from Sinhala police, it is the Sinhala man too who undergoes this treatment. Its just a rotten to the core institution full of lethargic people who do not know what they are supposed to be and make the rules as they go on.

By the way the policereport is to say that XYZ holding ID no having resided at this address for X years has not commited a crime in this jusrisdiction in the past 5 years. Its all wrong as even if I have commited a crime he should look in his records to see if my name appears and not take my word for it and a Grama Sevaka letter will in no sense attest to that accept to say I am on the electoral roll, which in this case I am not.

If I were at this stage to change the address of my ID card and Drivers license to Godagama it would take another three months and how would I live dusing this period!!

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