Over 400 Tamils will be joining the Sri Lanka Police after the completion of their training in August this year, the Minister of National Dialogue, Mano Ganeshan, told the New Indian Express on Friday.
Recruitment of Tamil policemen had become urgent after the end of Eelam War IV in 2009 and the coming to power of elected governments in the Tamil-speaking Eastern and Northern Provinces in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
The two provinces, which bore the brunt of the 30 year armed conflict with Tamil militants, could not be policed by the armed forces, manned mostly by Sinhalese, once the war ended and elected provincial government had taken charge.
But the police had very few Tamils to do the job, because they were suspected to be pro-militant and not recruited to the police and the Security Forces for 30 years. Government had to think of a crash recruitment program. But progress was slow.
However. when Maithripala Sirisena was elected Lankan President in January 2015, he came under pressure from the Tamil parties, which helped him to come to power, to recruitment Tamils to the police and post them in the North and East.
According to National Dialogue Minister Mano Ganeshan, the training of 400 Tamils would be completed in August and, thereafter, they would get postings in the North and East.
“We are also going to recruit Tamil translators and post them in police stations which have within their jurisdiction a significant Tamil population,” Ganeshan said.
Meanwhile, the law and order situation in Jaffna district began to cause concern as drug and alcohol use, drug smuggling, prostitution, robberies and gang warfare reached an alarming level. Local Tamils, from Northern Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran downwards, began to blame the 150,000 Lankan armed forces personnel deployed in the North, for the worsening crime situation. They accused the forces of willful neglect and worse, collusion with the criminals for material gain.
“If the army is removed, law and order will improve,” the Chief Minister said at public meetings tongue in cheek.
While the government is unlikely to withdraw the armed forces, except marginally, because a fear of militancy, it is hoping to improve the civilian policing system by having more Tamils and Tamil-knowing personnel.
According to Tamil National Alliance MP M.A.Sumanthiran, one reason why crime saw an upsurge in Jaffna was that crime detection and prevention were very poor due to a language barrier. The police and the people could not communicate with each other – the police spoke only Sinhalese and the Tamils only Tamil.