By Jayantha Weerasinghe
Under the present leadership of the Defence Ministry the policing of the streets is looking increasingly like a military exercise. A good example is the current operation undertaken by the police to deny parking on all Colombo streets.
This is not only on no parking zones but on any and every Colombo Street. Last week a friend of mine who had parked on the drive way to his own house was given a ticket for “obstructing”. The street he lives on was open to parking until last week. There is neither a visible change in the zoning, nor yellow lines or a sign board to that effect. But the police have been ordered by the highest in the defence establishment to clamp down on any vehicle parked on any Colombo street.
But of course these arbitrary orders will not apply to government politicians, their relatives and friends. When they travel in convoys of military type vehicles any place is good for parking. These convoys travel at breakneck speed, violate all traffic rules and park as they wish. Apparently such disregard for basic laws and common civility is necessary because they claim that there are terrorists lurking about waiting to do them harm. This threat extends to the wives, children and even distant relatives.
The rest of the population, who have bought their own vehicles with hard earned money, have to not only get out of the way when the high and mighty go whizzing past them but now cannot even park anywhere in Colombo save for the few fee levying car parks or in their own premises.
We will not deny that in any major city there has to be restrictions on parking. But to enforce a no parking policy on relatively quiet streets without providing alternative parking amounts to adopting mindless military discipline on harassed vehicle users. All major cities provide alternative parking. Most apartment owners in big cities park in front of their condominiums. Needless to say, all businesses in the city operate on the assumption that their customers will find easy parking nearby. If not, the businesses, particularly the small operators are bound to suffer.
Today in Sri Lanka a vehicle is not a status symbol. Many people own vehicles, including three wheelers and bicycles. We should not allow the police to harass the people in this manner. The police all over the world are a civilian force and work as law enforcers with a people friendly philosophy. The authorities who give this kind of order are obviously without experience in civilian management and even less in general education, having got to high positions by unusual means and paths. Many of them did not even own a vehicle but due to our peculiar political culture they are presented with a convoy of vehicles with the tax payer’s money to drive and park as they wish. It is high time that this insane policy of harassing vehicle owners who cannot find a place to park their vehicles in the city is ended.