5th Column

An acting role

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My dear Deshabandu,

I am writing to congratulate you on your appointment as our Acting top cop after months and months of suspense and uncertainty. You may feel that it is only an ‘Acting’ appointment for three months, but acting is nothing new to you. Some say all that you did for the past few years was just that, acting.

On the other hand, look at the person who appointed you. He too first came into the job as a person who was ‘Acting’. Within weeks, he got rid of the ‘Acting’ tag and is certain to be in the job until the end of his term. Now, everyone else is wondering whether they will ever get him to leave his job.

Deshabandu, you must have been a very worried man during the past six months. Your predecessor was supposed to retire in March but his term was extended many times. It came to a point where people started saying that, in the Police, the IGP was being appointed to the position of CD!

Let’s be honest, even Uncle Ranil didn’t like the idea of having you as the top cop at first. That could be because you had been a loyal and faithful servant of the ‘R’ clan for many years. Or else, it can be because, to put it in very polite terms, you had several ‘outstanding matters’ pending before courts.

Besides, Uncle Ranil wouldn’t have wanted the headache of explaining why he appointed you to your many critics and enemies. Foremost among them was His Eminence the Cardinal saying that appointing you will be a disaster. Uncle Ranil can do without having yet another argument with him.

Then there was the Bar Association which wanted an officer who didn’t have fundamental rights cases, criminal charges and allegations of unlawful activity against them to be appointed as the Top Cop. Apparently, there didn’t seem to be anyone like that in the higher ranks of the Police!

You certainly won’t fit that description, would you, Deshabandu? You had not one, but several issues of the kind the lawyers mentioned. A Presidential Commission into the Easter attacks wanted to take  ‘disciplinary action’ against you for shirking your responsibility. Yet, you managed to prevent that.

Then we all saw how, on May 9 last year, you ‘rallied the troops’ led by that chap from Puttalam who pays others’ electricity bills. You allowed them to proceed towards ‘Gota Go Gama’. It was obvious that it would lead to mayhem. It did. Many homes were set on fire and one MP was killed.

There were orders out to arrest you and a host of other parliamentarians. The chap from Puttalam was in fact arrested and so was another parliamentarian from Gampaha. However, being the extremely resourceful person that you are, you went to courts and had the order to arrest you quashed.

After all this, when millions of rupees were discovered at President’s House when Gota maama had to flee in a hurry, you are alleged to have given instructions about what to do with that money. Again, the courts came to your rescue deciding that you should not be named as a suspect in that case.

Looking at all these matters that you have been involved in, Deshabandu, I must say, you have a very impressive CV which very few can much. Some might even say that you are the most suitable person to lead the cops, if the people in khaki uniform operate on the principle of ‘set a thief to catch a thief’.

Even so, we heard that Uncle Ranil had second thoughts about giving you the job. If he couldn’t find anyone ‘suitable’ from the force that didn’t have a questionable past, he could have done what SWRD did in 1959 and appointed one of his friends from outside the force. Still, he didn’t do that either.

So here you are, after much procrastination, getting the top job though still in an ‘Acting’ capacity and that too for three months. That does raise the question as to how, if you were not suitable for the past eight months, you suddenly became eligible now, but who are we to question Uncle Ranil’s wisdom?

There are some whispers that even if you are made ‘permanent’ after three months, your term will be limited to three years. They say that is because, if you continue until your retirement age, we will have to tolerate you for over a decade – and other seniors in the force will have no chance to get to the top.

That will depend more on how you perform in your new role. If you play the role of loyal and faithful servant to whoever who rules – like you did with the ‘R’ clan – you could be in your job for a very long time. In any event, for someone who overcame so many legal challenges, that shouldn’t be a problem!

Deshabandu, I am wondering whether to wish you well. Paradise is at a crossroads and important elections are due next year. The role you play in your new job will decide whether those elections are held in a free and fair manner. So, I am not sure whether yours is the kind of leadership we need.

Yours truly,

Punchi Putha

PS: Those days, they used to say ‘naduth haamduruwangey, baduth haamuduruwangey’. With all the court cases you have had to deal with  and overcome before you got your job, maybe we should change that to ‘naduth Deshabandugey, baduth Deshabandugey’ – for that is what it will be now!


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