Relentless battle against the Coronavirus | Daily News

Relentless battle against the Coronavirus

Sri Lanka Police rises to the challenge

During its long history of more than 150 years, the Sri Lanka Police Service has never faced the challenge of a global pandemic. Upholding the law and guarding civil peace is already a daunting task in this digitally dominated society. In retrospect since March this year, the Sri Lanka Police have done a tremendous task in its multiple role as a COVID-19 first responder (alongside the military) and the guardian of the law. In addition, they fully supported the operation to eradicate narcotics under the prudent vision of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was a new experience to every Sri Lankan. There was fear and confusion. Amongst the primary needs were the identification and treatment of infected patients. The DIGs of every range were duly instructed to coordinate with PHIs and other health officials. Subsequently, the chain of command filtered through to the SSP/SP/ASP/ HQI and station OICs, who worked long hours. Special appreciation must be given to the station OICs who 

worked closely with the AGA office and GS divisions to implement various relief programmes to assist the public. During the first phase of the long lockdown, the policemen and policewomen never vacated their desks when called to verify and issue curfew passes. The curfew passes were issued for various reasons including medical emergencies. The police were tasked with maintaining 24-hour roadblocks across the island to enforce the curfew and check on illegal activities.

In the police service, the most demanding police range is the Western Province Range. This massive police range covers many divisions, including the entire city of Colombo with its commercially strategic installations which require security. In addition, the Parliament and the apex courts come within this police jurisdiction. From the onset of this pandemic, the task of supervising the Western Province has firmly rested on Senior DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon. He has proven to be an astute administrator, disciplinarian and a practical team leader. As a person familiar with police operations, I can endorse that no other Senior DIG of the Western Province had to face these type of multiple challenges in the past three decades. Closely supported by the DIG Colombo and other officers, this formidable team went beyond the call of routine police duty. They began working early in the morning and worked till late, up to midnight on some days. This is a glowing example to other government departments.

Under the directions of the Acting Inspector General of Police, the Senior DIGs of each province had to wisely engage in coordinating the movement of persons during the first wave of the pandemic. We could recall the thousands of workers who were stranded in the Western Province and other areas unable to return home. Working alongside the Sri Lanka Army led by its dynamic Commander Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, the police and soldiers engaged in the biggest logistics operation in safely moving these people. Hundreds of CTB buses were harnessed for this mission.Another area that required police coordination was the distribution and allocation of food and vegetable supplies. In the first few days, shops and supermarkets were unable to move their supplies. It was the Sri Lanka Police which planned and directed these mobile food delivery vehicles, strictly regulating mandatory health guidelines. In other countries, people were left stranded and some desperately took to looting food with their police forces violently retaliating. Sri Lankans must be proud that we never entered this stage. All available Government and private sector resources were duly mobilized.

In the past, there were shortcomings and misconduct of certain policemen which tarnished the dignity and decorum of the service. But during the spread of COVID-19, the policemen and policewomen proved their humane and religious character. Beggars in Colombo city were traced and relocated. They were given new clothes and food. Our police officers went to the extent of feeding stray dogs and cats on the roads. Station OICs made sure that every temple, church, kovil and mosque had food supplies. Policemen and STF personnel took a lead role in sanitizing many public places. Police Media led by DIG Ajith Rohana did a consistent job by daily creating awareness on restricting the spread of the virus.

The most significant duty amidst all this uncertainty was the ongoing police operations to curb narcotics menace. The Police Special Task Force (STF), the pioneer in counter-terrorism operations actively engaged in locating narcotics and illegal weapons used by criminal gangs. The STF made many daring raids to achieve this. The STF has also been tasked with guarding certain maximum security prisons. The Western Province Police Range has also worked hard to curb narcotics menace.

Since October the threat of COVID-19 lurks dangerously across our nation. Once again policemen and policewomen have stepped into action. It is the duty of all Sri Lankans to appreciate and support them. Violating the quarantine curfew is a sign of ignorance and selfishness. Police officers have worked round the clock not going home on leave. The Sri Lanka Police have served the nation with devotion.