A commendable stand | Daily News

A commendable stand

The media reported that following the elevation of former OICs of police stations to the rank of ASPs there had been a virtual stampede of police officers at the Law and Order Ministry on Monday armed with letters issued by ruling party MPs and Ministers vying for the vacant posts of OICs. It was also reported that security staff at the Law and Order Ministry had taken custody of all such letters but denied entry to the OIC hopefuls into the Ministry building.

According to news reports, Minister Rear Admiral (Ret.) Sarath Weerasekera had rejected all such “letters of recommendation” holding that political influence was not the criteria for promoting police officers. The OICs for the existing vacancies would be selected from among those who succeeded at the interviews held previously.

Minister Weerasekera, known to uphold professionalism in the Police Service and who has often spoken of the need to reform and upgrade the Service, should be commended for his stance. According to reports, several OIC hopefuls have received letters from MPs and Ministers to fill the OIC vacancies in a single police station which goes to show the chaotic and haphazard manner in which political appointments are being made to state institutions. With his no-nonsense attitude, Minister Weerasekera has what it takes to reject the requests of Ministers and ruling party MPs attempting to meddle with recruitments in what is his subject area.

Hopefully one would also like to think this steadfast stand taken by Weerasekera would be emulated by other Ministers too who certainly must be getting numerous such requests. If so, a majority of our Government Departments and corporations would henceforth be able to eliminate the deadwood and time servers who had been recruited to these establishments, thus eliminating the rampant inefficiency and unprofessionalism plaguing these State bodies.

The Police Service should be the last place where political influence should have a say in the recruitment/promotion of officers. The Police is the premier civilian law enforcement arm that calls for high professionalism and rectitude. Had the OIC promotions gone ahead based on political influence the officers who thus gained promotions would first and foremost be beholden to the political masters responsible for their promotion at the expense of efficiency and professionalism.

An even-handed implementation of the law would be the last thing to expect in such a scenario. Instead, doing the bidding of their political bosses would take priority status for these OICs even to the extent of harassing their political rivals from the same or an Opposition political party as seen in the past. What is more, such a situation is also bound to promote indiscipline and arbitrary action, with the OICs promoted under political influence even acting over and above their superior officers. It will also sow the seeds of dissension and frustration among the rank and file who will feel that only political influence will get them anywhere in the Service. This would lead to disinterest and lethargy in the Police Service.

We would then no more see the likes of the police constable, who, the other day, stood up to a high ranking Ministry panjandrum who attempted to intimidate the former at the Southern Expressway toll barrier when asked to see his driving licence. The whole scene between this official, claiming to be an Additional Secretary of an important Ministry, and the police officer went viral on social media which certainly provided an inkling to the ordinary citizens as to the conduct of those wielding power and political clout and the abject surrender and humiliation of those at their receiving end.

Needless to say, it is acts such as these that demoralize the Police Service as with the political influence of the type mentioned above where recognition for hard work and efficiency goes out of the window and sycophancy and panhandling to politicians allows one to go places.

The Police Service is in need of efficient and brave officers among its ranks given the sophisticated nature of the underworld and the new dimensions crimes has assumed with the proliferation of weapons and the drugs menace. Tough professionals should be in charge as OICs and similar ranks. There is no room for time servers and those owing their badge to political influence in the Police Service.

Minister Weerasekera has on many occasions spoken of his intention of reforming the Police Service to make it a proud force harking to its glory days while equipping it to face the new challenges. He is also known to stand by his men and come to their defence in the wake of criticism. He took the side of the police when it came under heavy flak for certain actions during the recent teachers’ demonstrations and even clashed with a ruling party politician in their defence. There is therefore no doubt that he will grant a free hand to the police in the maintenance of law and order in the country and shield them from unwarranted attacks and protect their actions when dealing with egoistic politicians and Government officials while in the course of their official duties.

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