No political influence in investigations – Police Chief
*Six Tamil Language teaching centres have
*Bribe - taking will not be tolerated
The Sri Lanka Police with over 82,000 men are not bound by any
political influence in their investigations and are committed to bring
justice to the people, the Inspector General of Police N.K. Illangakoon
said adding that the Department has implemented several programs to
build the trust between people.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Observer the Police Chief
said the Police would not tolerate suspects being tortured in Police
stations when they are being interrogated. Police officers guilty of
torturing suspects will be severely dealt with, he said.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: A ‘road map’ to revive the police system was distributed
among police stations some time ago. Why was it not implemented?
A: It was prepared four years ago. We have to review the
concept before implementing it.
A committee will be appointed to study the concept, which has
guidelines including crime detection, crime prevention, professional
investigations, traffic management and police administration.
Q: Is the Police geared to cater to the needs of the people?
A: Yes of course. When you compare Sri Lanka with other
countries, where a prolonged conflict has prevailed, the post scenario
This goes beyond law and order, in those countries. As for Sri Lanka
we have coped well.
Several measures have been taken to improve the quality of the Police
service to face the situation in a post-conflict era.
For over three decades, the Police was involved in security duties
and could not attend to normal tasks. Over 18,000 policemen, who were
recruited to serve in the North and East, have now been selected for
training to maintain a rapport with the people.
The Department has already started training courses for OICs. During
this three-months residential training they are given training on crime
detection, computer literacy and language programs.
The Police Department is confident that the officers can provide a
better service as they are trained.
Q: Now there seems to be a sharp increase in crime. Can you
attribute the reason for this?
A: This is not an abnormal situation. When crimes take place
it indicates that normalcy prevails.
In the North we didn’t hear of crimes earlier, but now some criminal
cases have been reported and this shows that life there is normal. Now
criminals have come out. Even in the South it is the same.
But the good news is that the situation is under control. Statistics
of 2010 to 2011 shows that there is no significant reduction in the
crime rate, this is due to the efficiency in crime detection.
There were weapons in circulation and people were soon after a war
mentality. Maintaining law and order was a huge task but police officers
achieved the required target to control crime in the country.
Q: Though the Department advocates a people-friendly Police,
people fear to walk into a police station. How will you maintain a
rapport with the public?
A: It is vital for policemen to maintain a rapport with the
people to maintain law and order. Policemen are trained and we have
taken important steps to improve skills and maintain rapport. Civil
Defence Committees were designed and implemented for this purpose. Such
committees, have a good relationship with the people and were
established in 430 police stations including the North and East.
Police Advisory Committees in each division have been set up with the
participation of respected people from these areas. Any complaint
against the Police can be directed to these committees.
Looking into complaints, except grave crimes within 48-hours has been
implemented in most Police stations. All Police stations, equipped with
modern facilities will adopt this method. A major reason to lose faith
in the police is because of the inordinate delay in investigations.
Meet Nugagaha Kapalle Illangakoon
The young Mathematics and Social Science teacher of Hambegamuwe Maha
Vidyalaya, Thanamalwila had no option but to obey the request of his
older brother. Graduating from the University of Colombo in 1979, he got
his first teaching appointment in Thanamalvila.
Meanwhile, with no specific childhood dreams, Illangakoon studied
hard while excelling in sports at Udagama Maha Vidyalaya, Balangoda.
Being the youngest in the family of five, Illangakoon’s mother didn’t
want her youngest son to join the Police force, though his older brother
was insisting that he should become a police officer. Fate gave the
final nod to his brother’s decision and in 1982 he joined the Police
Department as a Probationary Assistant Superintendent of Police.
“I couldn’t escape from my brother. He compelled me to fill the
application that he had brought and join the Police”, the Police Chief
As an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Illangakoon got his first
appointment as ASP in-charge of the Kurunegala District. He served in
Jaffna, Ampara and Batticaloa as Area Commander and shares the credit of
establishing the Police Special Task Force (STF). Going up the ladder,
he was promoted as SSP in 1994.
He served as senior DIG in charge of the Western Province, Support
Services, Crimes Range and Narcotic Bureau Range, Discipline and
Conduct, Transport and Communication, Welfare, Special Investigation
Unit and Police Legal Range and Administration.
He assumed duties as the 33rd IGP, six months ago. He recalled the
two deadly incidents where he survived the LTTE’s landmine explosions.
It was on May 20, 1985 when he was leading his convoy of four jeeps from
Batticoloa to Thoppigala, to prevent the LTTE escaping into the jungles
after attacking the Police base at Polonnaruwa-Manampitiya bridge.
“While we were reaching towards Thoppigala we tried to communicate with
the STF team, which laid an ambush operation in the wee hours of that
day but failed to contact them. As we felt they were in trouble, I
decided to assist them. But suddenly two men came on push bicycles
knocked our jeeps and ran in two directions. we followed them but they
disappeared into the jungles”, IGP Illangakoon said.
The STF team commenced their mission. His deputy who said he knew the
direction to the jungles took the lead voluntarily. “From that moment we
couldn’t move even 100 metres. The jeep with Inspector Gunasinghe and
his team was blown into smithereens within five minutes. I was in the
second jeep and I jumped out and my jeep exploded in the second
landmine, a minute later. We lost eight STF officers. I don’t know how I
escaped, it was a miracle”, the Police Chief said.
He believes more in his horoscope after an astrologer’s remarks about
his escape and also his prediction of another landmine explosion. He
said one’s horoscope is a true account of one’s life. “ The astrologer,
who was reluctant to believe that I am alive said my horoscope indicates
two ‘marakas’ (fatal incidents)”, IGP Illangakoon said.
Spending time with his children is his satisfaction and listening to
music helps him to relax and get rid of stress.The busy Police Chief
answers and attend to calls from the public who directly dial his number
seeking justice. “Oh...how many calls I get daily from various people
who seek my help. Anyone is free to call me”, he said. Born and bred in
a Buddhist family in Pinnawala, Balangoda, IGP Illangakoon doesn’t says
he is not a tough Police Chief, but is a tough disciplinarian. “Every
Poya Day I go to the temple, but my busy work schedule prevents me from
observing Sil. Once I give up my uniform, I will engage in religious
activities”, the soft-spoken Police Chief who wants his men to be more
people friendly, said.
The Department has sought the assistance of the Scottish Police
College to start Community Policing programs to train policemen.
Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organisational
strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and
problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate
conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social
disorder, and fear of crime. Community Policing is comprised three key
components; Community Partnerships, Organisational Transformation and
Under this program the British Scottish Police College is conducting
Rs.68.3 million worth of training programme on Community Policing for
the Police officers and they will train others later. Nearly 150 police
officers, including Assistant Superintendents and 26 trainers from all 9
Provinces have undergone training.
Q: Most suspects were subject to torture and human rights
activists were up in arms against human rights violations in Police
stations. What is your comment? Are you intending to bring changes in
A: No, I vehemently refute this allegation. No suspect is
subjected to torture in Police stations. Maybe this allegation is about
the situation some years ago. We do not tolerate torture in any police
station in the country and the Department has laid down tough measures
to punish Police officers who torture during interrogation.
However, a person can lodge a complaint that he was subject to
torture. He can complain when he is produced before a doctor, then when
he is produced before the Magistrate within 24-hours of being taken in
for questioning and after he is released, he can go before the Human
Rights Commission and lodge a complaint.
In the recent past there are no such allegations against police
officers. The situation has vastly improved with training and also by
recruiting well educated youth as policemen. They are also given courses
on human rights to support their duties with the people.
The best example of punishing policemen for torturing suspects is the
Angulana double homicide, where the OIC of the Angulana Police and three
other police officers were sentenced to death.
Q: Reconciliation among communities is the main task of the
government. How will the Police contribute towards this effort? What
would be the task of the Police in the Post-conflict era?
A: Policemen have a huge role to play in reconciliation. They
are one of the main links between communities which can successfully
bridge the gap.
The main barrier is the language as a majority of Policemen are not
conversant in Tamil.
The Police Department was one State institution where there was a
demand from the Tamils to join. But during the past 30 years, Tamils
A major grievance of the Tamils was that institutions lack
Tamil-speaking officers to deal with their problems.
Even before the end of the conflict, the Department was contemplating
to commence Tamil Language courses for Police officers. We have
recruited 660 Tamil Police officers to serve in the North and East.
Another 350 Tamils will join the Police Department by the end of this
month and we will continue the recruitment drive according to the
Six Tamil Language teaching centres have been established to teach
1200 police officers for six months.
The first batch consisted of 1,200 police officers who have
successfully completed learning the Tamil language and are now deployed
in the North and East. The second course for 600 police officers will
commence in the middle of this year. The police can win the hearts of
the Northern people with effective public relations.
Q: Unlike other public servants, Police officers are noted for
taking bribes. Especially the traffic police. How do you plan to restore
A: There are two sides to this issue. According to existing
laws, offering and accepting bribes are offences.
The public encourage policemen to accept bribes. This doesn’t mean
that Police officers should accept bribes and the Police Department does
not tolerate policemen who take bribes. We will take disciplinary action
However, during training programs we educate them on this aspect and
the punishment in store if they are found accepting bribes.
Q: In countries like Japan, a police officer is paid three
times more than a public servant. But in Sri Lanka a constable gets a
basic salary of Rs. 14,500 monthly. Most of the officers are poorly paid
compared to the other forces. Are there any plans to increase salaries
and welfare programs?
A: This aspect is for the government to consider. Yes, I agree
that policemen are paid lower salaries than those in the three Armed
Forces. But this is no reason to take bribes. I tried to address this
issue. The traffic cops will be given rewards according to performance.
The rewards will be doubled accordingly. Efficiency will be rewarded.
This system has been applicable to police officers who handle criminal
We have instructed all Police divisions to give monthly rewards to
those who excel in their duties.
Q: Now, the police play a major role in restoring law and
order in the provinces. To what extent is the Police getting the support
from the Tamils in the North and East as most of them might be seeing a
policeman for the first time.
A: Earlier many Tamils joined the police and Sinhalese police
officers who served in the North and East married Tamils. Of late no
Tamil person has joined the police Department.
The Department has taken significan’t steps to improve rapport
between the Tamils and the police. In the North and East, the police are
now building a rapport with the people. A request has been made for more
Tamils to join the police.
Q: A majority of ex-LTTE cadres are back after rehabilitation.
There was a plan to recruit them into the police service. Can they join
A: If they are qualified - educationally and physically - they
are eligible to apply to join the Police.
At the same time the Department needs a clearance from rehabilitation
authorities about their conduct after undergoing rehabilitation. The
doors are open for them to become officers.
Q: Some senior officers including IPs and CIs are frustrated
as promotions to the ranks from IP to CIs and CI to ASP have not been
made since 2006. Why is there a delay and how are you going to restore
A: The reason for this issue was the conflict. Before that the
Police had a cadre system and the system was followed.
The Police Department had to deviate from the system to fulfil ground
requirements because of the conflict.
The cadre system had to be put to the backburner as the Department
needed to recruit people to maintain law and order at that time.
The promotion system changed and we could not follow the stipulated
system. For example, an Assistant Superintendent of Police was in-charge
of four stations, but due to the conflict we had to appoint an ASP to
each police station.
Now the system has to be restored. Over 200 Inspectors who have
completed eight years as Chief Inspectors are now waiting to get
promotions but we don’t have cadre vacancies.
Q: Some of these officers have requested for promotions soon
or to permit them to retire after 22 years in service. Are you
considering this request?
A: Yes, we are aware of the situation and the Department is in
the process of solving the problems soon.
The Inspectors Association has requested early retirement if there
are no promotions but I am trying my best to keep them in the service
rather than granting them retirement.
Q: There is a feeling that the police is not acting
impartially in cases where ruling politicians are involved e.g. the
Bharatha Lakshman killing and the Sampath Vidanapathirana (Tangalle
Is there a situation where the Police can’t act impartially to take
action against ruling party politicians?
A: I strongly refute this allegation and this is a wrong
impression about the police. If someone can point out a single incident
where investigations were overlooked due to political pressure I will
The latest incident where the Police acted promptly was the Tangalle
incident. As the Police Chief I would reiterate that no politician can
influence police investigations and we would not act according to any
politician. Police officers would do justice to the people as we are
responsible to bring justice to them.