Why Police? Does Discipline matter? – By Prof. Samitha Hettige

September, 11, 2023

SL Police turned 157 on 3rd September. It has been a showpiece in the British Empire with investigations such as the Duff House murder (1920s) etc. The case was one of the first instances science based evidence was referred for police investigations in the Empire (Ref Alles). In recent times Police STF won feathers at international competitions. The founder of STF late Capt. Ravi Jayawardena & others who kept SL Police on par with world standards should be remembered with gratitude. Although English word “Police” was new to Sri Lankans in 1866, they may have had an effective understanding of social disciplining with the home grown “Dethis Wadhaya” (32 punishments in pre colonial era – Ref Ven. B. Vimalavansa). Despite arguments on its brutality some states still use some of the methods (Ref. Middle East & Singapore). The “Lo-weda Sangarawa” of Ven Veedagama Maha thera & the “Neethi Shathakaya” are home grown articles that can be used as soft tools for community policing in a democratic state. Former may have been a strategic article authored to help the respected Chola monk’s nephew Parakramabahu VI to manage human resources after been crowned with support from Emperor Ming & his blue navy of  Great China (Ref. Kotte era).

The Buddhist way

SL Police wear the “Dharma Chakra” on their shoulders indicating the protection provided by following the path shown by Buddha. Those who believe that the Buddha was born in SL (Habarana, Anuradhapura district) might quote taming of tusker “Nalagiri” to reinforce the view as humans encounter wild elephants in Habarana even today. Those against might quote the “Angulimala” incident. They may argue that if it was the SL policing force (not the Indian force), “Angulimala” episode would have ended probably after the 5th murder (not 999th). In states with little influence of Buddhism, Police forces are kept on high alert on full moon days to minimize impact of “lunatic behavior”. Science has proven the impact of the full moon on human behavior as in high/ low tides. Therefore, social managers should realize the intangible contributions of meditation & related activities conducted (as guided by the Buddha) on full moon days for economic development in the conflict prone crisis hit country.

Disciplined countries go forward with plural societies with lunatics at bay. Buddha encouraged his followers to be self disciplined rather disciplined by force (Swayan Paalitha Vinaya Vs Pudgala Paalitha Vinaya). Those interested may follow his path without worrying on his place of birth. One should observe human behavior at public places & on roads etc. in economically strong states. Majority are self disciplined on all but full moon days (due to training). Since Police are on alert they are disciplined on full moon days as well. One may notice that the majority in SL self discipline on full moon days but misbehave all other days. SL conflict analysis indicates the need for more training of people & police to prevent future conflicts. Economic opportunities cascade with the Belt & Road. Traditional western colonial approaches are been rapidly refused by states with the principles of reciprocity in consultation, construction, and benefit sharing approach of the BRI. Can SL use this opportunity to attract investors as an untamed plural society without being a Police state? Some refer to Singapore & UAE etc as Police states but everyone goes there with a positive attitude. Is Sri Lanka missing a point?

(Views expressed are personal).