Political violence broke out in the Jaffna Peninsula in
the mid-1970s. In its incipient stages, it was not an open confrontation
with the state. But what started off as an insignificant political
struggle by a small band of desperadoes in the 1970s has now grown
into a full-scale separatist war that has lasted for almost two decades.
This paper describes the backdrop to the outbreak of violence, the
setting of the confrontation, and presents one case study of the strategies
used by the police to contain the conflict successfully when political
violence commenced in the late 1970s.
has a complex, plural society with three important ethnic groups,
and as many as four of the world's major religions. The Sinhalese constitute 74 per cent of the total
population of 15 million. Over two thirds of them are Buddhists. Sri Lankan Tamils constitute 12.7 per cent and
Indian Tamils another 5.5 per cent of the total population. Sri Lankan Tamils (Tamils), a majority of them
Hindus, constitute politically, the most significant minority. Sri
Lankan Moors, approximately 6.5 per cent of the population, maintain
an identity distinct from the Sinhalese and the Tamils, based largely
on their adherence to Islam. The other ethnic communities - Indian
Moors, Malays and Burghers, are too small to constitute a major force
in politics. According to one scholar:
The Sinhalese are the predominant community throughout the island except
in the North and the East. Outside of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the Sinhalese make
up 80% or more of the population. In the administrative district of
Jaffna, the Tamils constitute 95.3% of the population (with Sinhalese
accounting for 0.6% and Sri Lankan Moors 1.7%, the balance being Indian Tamils). The Tamils have
lived for many centuries in and around the Jaffna Peninsula at the northern
tip of the island. In the other two administrative districts of the
Northern Province, the Tamils form
Sinhalese vs. Tamils
the advent of the British, the two peoples (Sinhalese and Tamils)
lived apart. This explains the concentration of Tamils for
several centuries in and around the Jaffna Peninsula. With the unification of the island by the British,
however, the two communities came into contact with each other once
the British, the Tamils took advantage of the educational opportunities
provided by the Christian Missionary schools and began to occupy positions
in various professions: law, public service and politics; and with
positions came authority. By the late-1930s, the Tamils were occupying
government posts disproportionate to their numbers. The Sinhalese
resented this. Consequently, the Sinhalese began to harbour perceptions
of deprivation despite being in a majority. This gave rise to a minority
psychology from which sprang their defensive aggressiveness.
Sri Lanka gaining independence in 1948, the Sinhalese began to demand a special
status for their language, Sinhala, and their religion, Buddhism,
and a full measure of opportunities proportionate to their numbers.
As competing political parties began to mobilize
mass support, the relative positions and the sharing of power among
various ethnic groups within the new political arrangement assumed
a strong ethnic character. Gradually, ethnic identities became sharp
and interest articulation gained assertive forms, bringing to the surface and intensifying the latent
group consciousness. The political process of those times helped to
reinforce these trends further. Immediately after Independence, the majoritarian position of the Sinhalese made it possible for them
to turn the tables on the Tamils in the halls of power with vehemence,
threatening the power-wielding grip they had on the administration.
A sense of relative deprivation at the loss of an advantageous or
a privileged position in the new political situation after Independence, and a perceived threat to their ethnic identity from the political,
economic and cultural policies of the government of the day contributed
to the aggravation of these feelings. This aggressive assault on their
power drove the Tamils towards a heightened ethnic cohesion.
clear division on ethnic lines and the resulting lack of empathy and
understanding heightened the 'we - they' quality of the conflict and
made it more difficult to resolve (as in Trinidad and Guyana, a parallel case in point).
Tamils began to mobilise themselves along ethnic lines and sought
to redress their grievances through parliamentary debates, agitation
and sit-ins. This inflamed the militant sections among the Sinhalese,
who began to suspect the motives of the Tamil elite. As a consequence,
communal riots broke out in 1958 and 1977.
result of the assertiveness and aggressiveness on the part of militant
Sinhalese sections was a rapid transformation of perceptions among
the Tamils. The transformation was from one of a minority operating
in a pluralistic society into the concept and ideology of a separate
historical polity with a territorial base and distinctive manifestations
of race, religion, and language.
mutually conflicting perceptions not only resulted in stereotypes
being established on both sides, but also contributed to a breakdown
in the understanding and communication between the two communities. Even as the adoption of the English language
or the Christian religion blurred the lines of separation, identification
with the ethnic community generally remained sharp and clear. The result was the shift of relations between the
Sinhalese and the Tamils towards a collision course.
atrocities committed during the communal riots and the violent uprooting
of Tamil families from their homes in Sinhalese areas, in 1958 and
1977, left deep wounds and bitter memories. In the midst of these humiliations, perceived
threats to the ethnic identity from the political, economic, and cultural
policies of the government; perceived grievances of a political or
economic nature, or both; and a sense of relative deprivation at the
loss of an advantageous or privileged position, separatist sentiments
emerged. This resulted in militancy among a section of the Tamil youth
contributed to a further heightening of ethnic cohesion and a sense
of ethnic identity. Geographic and demographic characteristics reinforced
these tendencies. By the mid-1970s, these developments had led to
a radicalisation of the political scenario and the emergence of violence
in Jaffna, making a political
rupture between the Sinhalese and the Tamils imminent. This led to
separatist tendencies, which , in the course of time, erupted in political
violence. Political violence broke out in the mid-1970s in Jaffna, the northern
city of Sri
was, however, not an open confrontation with the state when it initially
broke out in 1972. It consisted of, more often than not, carefully
orchestrated symbolic acts of violence against persons (at the beginning
they were Tamils associated with the government) and state property.
This was the familiar pattern of political violence that emerged in
the northern peninsula.
'Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam' (LTTE), or Tigers as they came
to be commonly called, were the militant group that claimed responsibility
for this violence. Once political violence erupted, politically motivated-armed
robberies and open intimidation of potential or actual witnesses of
these acts became a feature of life in the Jaffna Peninsula. By
violently reacting to any one who opposed them, the 'Tigers' communicated
the chilling political message that any opposition would be met with
frightful consequences. The strategy was so effective that it ultimately
built a wall of silence among the people.
'Tigers' moved from one spectacular incident to another with impunity.
With slim chances of identification by witnesses, the police were
largely unable to cope with these threats of violence, murder and
robbery. The Tigers thus, rendered the normal police procedures
and the legal machinery ineffective. On May 22,1978, the government reacted by proscribing the LTTE. Undaunted, the Tigers
continued with their activities.
In July 1979, the government responded
by declaring a state of emergency in the Jaffna Peninsula. This was followed by
the dispatch of an Army Brigadier to the North to co-ordinate operations
against the terrorists. He carried a mandate to eradicate
terrorism in the North by 31 December of that year, the date
the emergency was to end. It was in the wake of
this development that the Inspector General of Police posted this
author (a Senior Superintendent at the time) to Jaffna to take charge of that
The Police in Jaffna
police in Jaffna comprised a mixture of Sinhalese, Tamil and other ethnic groups. The
ratio of Sinhalese police officers to Tamil officers was approximately
60 per cent to 40 per cent. Nevertheless, there had always been Sinhalese
police officers of all ranks serving in police stations in the Jaffna peninsula,
and they were not unwelcome there. On the contrary, in the caste-ridden
society of Jaffna, they were looked upon by some sections of the population as a sobering
influence, particularly during caste conflicts. They had earned the
confidence of the general population as impartial arbiters.
as political violence progressed, perceptions changed. As security
operations in the region intensified, the police came to be perceived
as a part of the state's security network devised to keep the Tamils
suppressed. The Police, perceived as an army of occupation,
was driven by the inescapable logic of their ambiguous position in
Jaffna to behaving
like one. This was further complicated by historical, political
and ethnic underpinnings. Torn between duty and group loyalty, the
police were pressed into a conflicting role and on occasions were
driven to take hard decisions, manifestly for political reasons.
Besides, for most Sinhalese police officers, service in Jaffna was barely
a tolerable hardship, being far away from their homes. Cases in which
some of them were sent to Jaffna on disciplinary grounds were not infrequent. In addition, the strategies
of the extremists were debilitating to the police. They killed the
Tamil police officers who dared to investigate their activities, and,
thereby, effectively stifled police investigations.
Frustrated and demoralized at the ease with which the militants
were indulging in violent incidents, the police became bitter and
resentful at the lack of public co-operation. Evidently, frustration
led them to adopt violent tactics. However, for the Tamil police officers,
it was a difficult task to reconcile their loyalties between commitment
to duty and their own ethnic identity. These conflicting loyalties resulted in a situation
where they came to be viewed by their own colleagues as being either
ineffective or unreliable. This situation bred distrust within their
police who initially had the responsibility to contain this violence
were never a popular creation of the British Colonial Administration.
It was entirely an alien organisation in the socio-cultural setting
of Sri Lanka.
The notoriety with which it was known during the British times as
a coercive organization continued even after independence. The role
that successive governments assigned to the police and the nature
of socio- political demands made on the police structure failed to
transform this coercive instrument of a colonial power into a socially
sensitive organization of a sovereign country. The failure of the
police to earn the trust and confidence of the people resulted in
the people continuing to view it as a necessary evil. Therefore, one
of the basic problems faced by the police in Sri Lanka
is a lack of legitimacy and public approval for their actions. The
lack of public confidence is one of the major impediments in the context
of the effectiveness of the police in Sri Lanka.
In fact, it was one of the basic problems that affected the Jaffna
Police's capacity to deal with violence in the peninsula.
author assumed office as the Chief of Police, Division of Jaffna,
in August 1979. Uncertainty and fear were part of the people's psyche
in Jaffna during the
1970s. There was danger and uncertainty in the air. The wall of silence
that had gripped the region - the police construed it as compliance
or complicity - generated fear and distrust. This aggravated the existing
'we-they' mentality that is generally characteristic of the police. As the level of violence increased, the police withdrew to the safer
and more fortified confines of their stations. Contrary to the general
practice, they now came to be fully armed at all times.
the police vacating the streets, criminals struck with amazing daring.
Very often, they operated under the guise of the 'Tigers', leading
to much confusion within the community and police circles. It aggravated
the existing atmosphere of fear and distrust. Busy securing their
own safety, the police had little consolation to offer to the community.
As a consequence, in spite of the heightened criminal activity and
the feeling of helplessness and general despair, the community had
little to do with the police for they feared the police as much as
(more so since they were now armed) they feared the criminals. As
fear reigned, freedom of movement decreased, resulting in a constrained
the principal function of the police, and knowledge of the governed
is essential for progress towards a safe community and a fair, more
caring police. The function of the police is not to govern a reluctant
people by force but to protect the public from a lawless minority.
Police forces are not an arm of the state, but servants of the community
whose confidence they must secure. Success in this depends upon police
officers understanding the fear and apprehension of all groups of
people within the community, including ethnic minorities, and doing
whatever is necessary to enable all citizens to go about their lawful
business. The problem of obedience is central to the understanding
of government. If the police are to secure the confidence and assent
of the community, they must try to strike a balance between the measures
to enforce the law and the maintenance of peace. This means they have
to work on the principle of policing by consent, rather than coercion.
perform a vital democratic function in a free society.
The police are an institution of the government that poses
the most constant presence in the life of many citizens. They carry
not only the burden of the law, but also the symbolic burden of all
that is the government. Therefore, it is not surprising that the tension
and frustration of the citizens come to be focussed on the police.
Power and legitimacy are the key variables that affect the proper
discharge of police functions. The way the police handle situations,
therefore, can contribute substantially to mutual antagonism, disaffection
with government and disrespect for the law. The capacity of the police
to maintain their power and authority in their relations with the
citizens depends to an important degree upon their ability to establish
and maintain legitimacy. Police can gain legitimacy and maintain their
authority by sharing their power with the community. Those who have
been on the outside looking in, who have experienced the helpless
feeling of inability to exert power within the system must, therefore,
be given a participatory role.
in crime prevention and control is not an unrealistic expectation,
since, historically, citizenship included the responsibility of maintaining
peace and justice. Today, many citizens are apathetic and prefer that
criminal justice specialists be responsible for keeping order, thus
relieving the citizens of that responsibility.
of law enforcement and social control rests with each individual,
however, and citizen involvement is necessary for the effective functioning
of the system. Even though the police may be charged with the role
of protecting citizens and their property, their typical duty is investigatory.
Usually, police reactions to an event are post
facto. The traditional expectation of the police as the sole deterrent
force should at least be questioned.
is both an effort to implement the values inherent in democratic theory
and an organizational technique to help individuals obtain a voice
in shaping the policy of the affairs of government institutions that
affect their lives. It is a means to mobilize unutilized or underutilized
resources and energies, a source of productivity and unutilised manpower.
It also provided special insight, information, knowledge, and experience,
which both validates government effort and corrects defects, inequalities
and false assumptions forming the basis of government policy and progress.
Open responsive government can encourage citizen-participation. However, this depends on the willingness on
the part of the police to reconstitute their role and adapt themselves
to novel and emerging circumstances.
Personal experiences have instilled the realisation that the police
were cynical about maintaining effective public relations with the
Jaffna populace. It was evident that the police mission in Jaffna
was clouded by parochial issues and influenced by primordial loyalties
and chauvinistic considerations. The tendency of the police to adopt
judgmental attitudes rendered them ineffective in terms of capitalising
on the opportunities that still existed within the society to bring
about social cohesion. Although the masses were eager to usher in
peace, the police thought otherwise. Based on similar assumptions,
the hypothesis constructed was that, if the police were to reach out
to the public in a spirit of friendship and reconciliation they would
reciprocate, and this reciprocity would bring about a better understanding
between the police and the community. This author proceeded with the
assumption that if one could get at least some public groups to demonstrate
their support for closer police-community relations, then it would
be able to convince the police about the virtues of more effective
community policing. Moreover, this could also lead to the dissipation
of violence, an appropriate solution to the deteriorating situation
'The Jaffna Experiment' refers to the efforts made by the Police in
Jaffna under this author's leadership to improve police-public relations
in their response to the raging political violence in the region.
It describes the process by which the police in Jaffna developed a
community-oriented police strategy in response to the occurrence of
political violence in the peninsula, and how it ultimately brought
about effective police-community relations and an end to the political
violence, albeit momentarily.
The Jaffna Experiment
a first step in this strategy, the author summoned the Officers-in-Charge
(OIC) of Police Stations and some of the community leaders to a conference
held at the Divisional Headquarters in Jaffna. During the course of
this Conference, the various problems encountered by the police and
the community in the peninsula were enumerated. Underlining the interdependence
and mutuality of the problems, an attempt was made to define the direction
of a participatory and a collaborative venture comprising the police
and the community in order to explore enduring solutions to the problem
of political violence in a caste-ridden, ethnically divided and iniquitous
leaders welcomed the police initiative and also endorsed the proposed
changes in their relational framework with the police. But police
responses were skewed due to the lack of a clear-cut programme in
approaching the whole issue. The author could only offer his genuine
eagerness and sincerity towards the concept of community policing.
The search for answers from the side of the police led to Division-wide
meetings and confabulations with the leaders of the community. These
meetings directed the reasoning towards an understanding of the problems
affecting the community and the police. Immediate attempts were set
in motion to address these complexities and to alleviate them. For
instance, language was one of the problems that surfaced repeatedly.
Sections 8 and 10 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Act 15 of 1979,
was immediately implemented to make administrative arrangements. These
arrangements helped the citizens to register complaints in their own
language. A further improvement was carried out by organising Tamil
language classes for the Sinhalese officers, and by offering them
incentives to learn Tamil. Simultaneously, officers were exhorted
to understand the virtues of building community support structures,
particularly from the point of view of their safety. In soliciting
the support of the officers for this campaign, the author also explained
the details of the proposals.
positive response that the proposed campaign received in its initial
phase led to a certain predicament. The community in its response
was concerned with the longevity of the whole exercise in the event
of the retirement or transfer of the author. Questions came to be
asked whether all that was being done could be sustained after the
departure of the author from the post he was then holding. This scepticism
was detrimental to the campaign, and had to be dispelled.
was, of course, realised that existing voluntary associations in the
region constituted a very significant support structure for the framework
of public forums that was envisioned. It was equally necessary to
build an enduring and meaningful relationship. The most effective
way to achieve this was to lay the foundations within the community,
since the community had permanent roots in the region, while the police,
being national in character, was transitory (at least in the sense
of continuity of personnel and leadership). Voluntary associations
not only represented different interest groups, but they also drew
upon the opinion leaders of the community. As such, these associations
were ideally suited to build such a framework of relationships. Making
use of this infrastructure, public forums Police-Public
Relations Committees (PPRCs) - were created and these came to
be a permanent meeting ground for the police and the public
were formed with several objectives in mind. Broadly stated, they
were designed to: (1) serve as consultative committees providing a
permanent forum for community inputs; and (2) promote a collaborative
effort towards making policing a collective and an effective enterprise.
The highlights of the constitution of the PPRCs which had been laid
down by a Divisional Order included:
the committees were designed to reflect the various
shades of public opinion in order to make them more representative
committee members were selected after a careful scrutiny
of their antecedents;
meetings of the committees with the OIC of each police
station were scheduled at least once every month for deliberations
within a given framework, initiative, innovation
and constructive criticism were encouraged;
in order to encourage constructive criticism, democratic
procedures governed the conduct of the meetings;
minutes of these meetings were periodically monitored
by the author and his staff and;
the committees were given direct access to the police
a vehicle for discussion, consultation and interaction between the
police and the community, the PPRCs acted as the nucleus of a movement
designed primarily to make policing a collaborative enterprise and
also to foster unity between the police and the community in the pursuit
of a common goal. Designed to bring about a lasting and a meaningful
relationship, they provided a meeting ground for both the police and
the community. Divisional Order Number 4 of November 1979 formally
established these Committees throughout the Police Division. After
a trial period of six months, this order was finally revised and replaced
by Divisional Order Number 5 of June 1980.
The Program in Action
Committees were inaugurated with great enthusiasm. Preventive activity
was spearheaded and organized by the PPRCs. Organizing vigilance -
neighbourhood-watch schemes - was one of their important contributions.
They performed yeoman service not only in terms of preventing crime
but also in the detection of crime. Besides, they also formed neighbourhood
justice centres with the encouragement and support of the police.
These centres settled minor (family and land) disputes. For instance,
PPRCs in Chunnakam police area settled 1,500 disputes relating to
property and family matters, verbal abuse, and minor brawls over a
period of three years. They were, thus, a resource to the police to
the extent that they relieved the police of considerable workload.
To the community, they were a useful resource acting as an important
link with the police. Besides these linkages, the committees also
represented a source of security and confidence. Moreover, through
organized social events they provided increased avenues for social
intercourse to both the police and the community, assisting them to
integrate harmoniously. These PPRCs worked with varying levels of
initiative and effectiveness. In terms of results, the Jaffna Headquarters
Police Station and the police stations at Velvettithurai and Chunnakam
seemed to have produced the best result, while Annaikottai, Chankani,
and Gurunagar made significant contributions towards the programme
in promoting good public relations. Chavakachcheri and others also
contributed to the general team effort.
these contacts gathered momentum, vigilance and public pressure against
crime started to mount. It was not unusual for members of the public
to arrest criminals and hand them over to the police, often with recovered
stolen property. With the operationalisation of the PPRCs, the public
willingly provided the police with information, more readily identified
criminals, and came forward to testify in courts. This resulted in
the arrest of several criminal gangs by the police. The impact of
these developments on the activities of the criminals was paralysing.
It resulted in several 'crime free' days in the Division - a rarity
in the preceding period. The Jaffna City police headed the list, with
a record of no felony crimes reported for an entire week in April
1980. Moreover, several persons who remained at large after committing
misdemeanours during the Emergency, voluntarily surrendered to the
police after the commencement of the community policing experiment.
The most dramatic of the offers to surrender came to the Superintendent
through a PPRC, and involved the surrender of some of the leaders
of the militant group hiding in South India.
August 1979, when the author assumed charge at Jaffna, the police
were highly sceptical of any exercise aimed at building public co-operation.
By early 1980, however, so much had been achieved by way of good relations
between the police and the public that during 'thai
pongal' (harvest festival held in January)
in 1980, some members of the public visited several of the police
stations with the traditional 'Pongal'
(sweet-meats prepared during festivities) in their natural appreciation
of their police. The police were surprised at the goodwill
generated by the community policing experiment. These events demonstrated
to the police the increasing and unprecedented sense of acceptance
they had come to enjoy among the community.
kind of support that was demonstrated by the community shattered certain
old myths about the people of Jaffna. It generated within the police
circles a feeling of being wanted, and a sense of acceptance, trust,
and confidence. Further, it reduced opportunities or the inclination
towards malpractice, changed police attitudes and improved working
standards. It also raised levels of police morale and discipline.
Cumulatively, these resulted in a remarkable decrease in genuine complaints
of misconduct against the police.
and encouraged by the turn of events, the police were able to return
to a business as usual scenario. Day patrols and beat
patrols started going out. Gradually, night patrols began, with patrolling
in pairs armed with only a baton, as was the practice in the periods
preceding the escalation of violence. The police were even willing
to discard their arms without specific orders, because they found
that there was more security for the police in community support
than there is in all the sophisticated weaponry. It took only a gentle persuasion for them to be
on the roads without being armed. More people were willing to meet
unarmed police, and also approached the police stations with less
fear. Incidents of crime were more readily reported. With the return
of an air of security and wellbeing, legitimate political activity
also resumed. Gradually, tension disappeared and the community life
was well on its way to a recovery.
May 1980, at a seminar held to review police-community relations in
the region, the author reported that efforts to bring the community
and the police together in the pursuit of a common goal had evolved
into a successful experiment. The greatest lesson that the experience
had brought was that trust begets trust.
General Secretary of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), Member
of Parliament and Leader of the Opposition, Appapillai Amirthalingam, in consonance, admitted
at the seminar that there had been better police-public relations
during the period under review. During the debate on the Appropriation Bill in
Parliament in November 1980, he reiterated these sentiments. He said:
I wish to say that as far as the police are concerned, definitely there
is a marked improvement in their behaviour towards the public. This
coming from me, will, I think, go very far.
Commenting editorially, Dinapathy,
a Tamil national daily added,
"Crimes have been decreasing in the northern region now. The main
reason for the decrease in crime in the northern region is the existence
of good police-public relations."
success of the programme, however, depended on several factors. For
instance, the program demonstrated to the police that community support
was pivotal to their safety. Safety, one of the basic human needs
and the first in the hierarchy of needs according to Maslow, was uppermost in the minds of the police. Once
they realized that they stood to benefit from the programme, they
relished this new relationship. Conversely, the author's reconciliatory
efforts had an immediate popular appeal to the public in Jaffna.
with the responsibility of pursuing the terrorists being
transferred to the Brigadier, the author was able to reschedule police
priorities at the Division. It was also an opportunity to divert the
police mind off the unpleasant task of pursuing the Tigers.
Further, the security operations conducted by the Army Co-ordinating
Office after the declaration of the Emergency presumably led to the
militant leaders flight from the country and into hiding across the
seas, in South India. Their temporary absence from the island and
this division of responsibility also helped the PPRCs campaign.
were other contributory factors as well. The police could perform
their duties unaffected to a large extent by external (to the police)
influences disturbing the system. Political interference
was almost non-existent. This led to police actions becoming relatively
fair and impartial. After the Emergency was lifted, the Armed Forces
kept a low profile since there was no remaining cause for their intervention.
The Press - local as well as national - played a tremendous role in
relaying the clarion call of the police for public assistance. By
giving the police relevant publicity for their good work (even going
to the extent of making editorial comments) and bringing the programme
into the limelight, the encouragement the media provided was invaluable.
The Press acted as a great facilitator in the context of the reconciliation
it was evident that the militants, a few score in number, were apparently
not well organized. Their violent campaign for a Tamil Eelam
(a separate Tamil state) demonstrably lacked popular support at that
point of time. Although TULF, the main legitimate political force
representing the majority of the Tamil public opinion, made use of
the slogan in its political campaign, it was non-committal as far
as the achievements of a separate state as a non-negotiable goal was
concerned. Besides, the TULF leaders had assured this author that
they appreciated the Jaffna Experiment and wished to see no violence
in the region.
given the political, ethnic and historical underpinnings of the conflict,
it was not an easy task to unite the warring groups. Group perceptions,
traditional police culture, the atmosphere of fear and
mistrust, poor communications, lack of adequate training to manage
a complex scenario of this nature, and bureaucratic thinking at the
national levels compounded the intricacies of the situation. Given
these impediments, the situation demanded adept leadership skills,
innovation and a visionary approach to the problem. Within this context,
leadership was pivotal to the progress of the programme. The discernment
of the resistant and driving forces were crucial in the efforts towards
unfreezing the system. This understanding assisted the author in his
efforts to convince the police that their true mission was to serve
and protect. It also helped in convincing the community on the
mutuality of the Jaffna Experiment, and the fact that the quality
of the service depended on the amount of reciprocity the police received
from the community. This re-education of both the police and the community
helped the progress of the program tremendously. Last but not least,
teamwork, leadership skills and the vision of the Jaffna Police contributed
greatly to the success of the program. Once the forces of reconciliation
were set in motion, it demonstrated an ability to sustain itself even
after the emergency was removed in December 1979 and the army operations
programme of police-community relations implemented in Jaffna is an
eloquent testimony to the extent to which the police can provide its
services in terms of crime control and law and order enforcement,
through a collaborative effort with the support of the community.
It not only established a close relationship between the police and
the community but also resulted in the development of mutual trust
and confidence between them. It indicated the instrumentality of power-sharing
in terms of the influence it had on the authority of the police and
the community. Apart from the nature of results shown - reduction
of crime and calls for service, change of attitudes and the like -
the Jaffna Experiment also demonstrated certain significant aspects
of the relationship framework between the police and the community.
reinforced the mutual relations between police and the public, changed
the perceptions within each about the other, and even brought about
a positive change in the behavioural patterns of the police. This
good behaviour eventually led to an increase in public
trust and confidence and, consequently, to public approval of police
actions. This increased their legitimacy and power. At the other end,
it not only gave the citizen a voice in the affairs of policing their
community, but also provided closer access to the police and increased
the sense of power, influence, and status of the community. As a result,
the entire political situation underwent a change due to the creation
of a conducive atmosphere for a dialogue.
it brought the police and the community together in a unique experience.
Their joint collaboration led to the creation of an
atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. It was a qualitative change
from the days of fear and tension and this directly contributed to
the quality of life in those parts, the major outcome of the program
being the complete absence of political violence.
It also demonstrated the importance of a commitment
to democratic values, norms of openness, trust between persons, lowering
of status barriers between parts of the system and the mutuality of
parts as a necessary contribution of the re-educative process, and demonstrated particularly the value of a normative
re-educative strategies to the police. It introduced certain new values
into police-community relations, giving both the community and the
police, an opportunity in leadership training through participation
in this new relationship. It further demonstrated the strategic importance
of the small group as a medium for change.
Jaffna Experiment makes it amply clear that force by itself
is not an effective method of obtaining compliance of the citizens.
Voluntary compliance is a much more consistent and effective means
than any thing that can be arrived at through brute force. It has
shown that citizen participation can not only bring about a change
of attitude and group perceptions, but also change of behaviour and
the settlement of minor disputes by the PPRCs helped the citizens
in Jaffna to be more self-reliant. As citizens began handling minor
problems themselves, it reduced calls for police service significantly.
Both citizens and officers felt safer and more integrated.
It also minimized the sense of isolation, alienation and fear among
Experiment also brought about a fundamental change in the outlook
of the police. The conception of their obligation to the public and
their duty to the country underwent a radical transformation. The
net result was an all-round improvement in their working standards
and conduct. It also changed the attitudes of the public towards the
police. Their active co-operation broke down old barriers of fear,
suspicion and contempt for the police, and replaced these with the
development of a mutual understanding, respect and trust - trends
that are consistent with democratic values.
promoting these mutually reinforcing and supportive trends, the strategy
also served as a useful tool of management. Much of police work is
performed without close supervision. Members of the public could assist
police agencies in the evaluation of individual officer performance.
Letters commending outstanding performance by officers, or complaints
regarding police misconduct, were some of the valuable community inputs
for police management.
Jaffna Experiment demonstrated that such community involvement
assists the police administrators and does much to reinforce the close
ties between the public and their police. It also indicated that increased interaction with
the community reduces the opportunities for malpractice and indifference
to work and that it improves the morale and discipline levels of the
it served as an effective strategy to usher in change. Although it
is difficult to change a conservative organization like the police
through internal mechanisms, the interaction between the police and
the public, emphasised in community policing programmes, made this
change more natural and easier to achieve. It proved to be a catalyst
in the process of community wide changes in Jaffna.
But the most striking feature of the Jaffna Experiment
was its capacity to increase the legitimacy of the police. Events
described in this paper are testimony to the fact that that community-oriented
policing has the potential to generate legitimacy and power. As was
illustrated by the programme experiences, sharing of power increased
legitimacy and increased legitimacy further contributed to an increase
in power. The strategy, consequently, has far-reaching implications
both for law enforcement agencies, as well as and experiment for those
who are genuinely interested in law enforcement strategies based on
the principle of policing by consent.
The Jaffna Experiment was not without
its limitations. The program
was interrupted after this author was transferred in August 1980.
The Deputy Inspector General for the Northern Region [DIG NR] withdrew
the Divisional Order Number 5, stating that he wanted to substitute
it with one of his own programs based on what he called a Sector
System. According to a report submitted to the National
Headquarters in January 1981 by an observer from the Police Headquarters,
the DIG (NR) had altered the programme intending to bring more grass-root
level participation into its operation. Nevertheless, interdicting the program at the very
crucial stages of its progress prevented the optimisation of the values
emphasized by it. The full implications of the program will, therefore,
never be known.
of caution would be in place here. While community-oriented policing
has proved effective in some instances, it is not a panacea for all political
situations. Though community oriented policing can be an effective
strategy under particular circumstances, it is certainly not the answer to every problem that confronts the Police.
summary, this paper described the backdrop
to the political violence
that broke out in Jaffna, the Northern City of Sri Lanka in the mid-1970s.
It showed how the LTTE moved from one spectacular incident to another
paralysing the normal law-enforcement process. It also focused on the failure of the existing police
methodology to measure up to
the challenges in the light
of a highly complex
situation. It then
described the governmental
response to the challenges by declaring an Emergency
in the Peninsula and sending the military
to eradicate terrorism in
the North. Through
the case-study method, the
paper demonstrated how
the police later developed a community-oriented police strategy in response
to the political
violence in the
Peninsula and how
it ultimately brought about effective police-community relations and
eventually an end to political violence
- albeit temporarily.