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David Blacker’s Blog

Two-Thousand Bucks for a Suicide Bomber

Spot the Suicide Bomber by Hurtful Orison

Spot the Suicide Bomber by Hurtful Orison

I’d just finished a 19-hour film shoot and was pretty exhausted by the time we wrapped. It was past 3am as we piled into the van that was taking us back to the agency — one of my writers, this client servicing bugger, and myself. It hadn’t been the most stressfree shoot, and tired as I was, my body was tense and I was turning over the next day’s takes in my head — takes that were scheduled to begin at 9am.

The van’s abrupt deceleration snapped me out of my thoughts, and I groaned inwardly as I saw the armed soldier waving us down. Army VCP. I was sitting by the rear door and slid it open before the van had stopped. A soldier peers into the dark interior of the vehicle.

“Any Tamils?” he asks in Sinhalese.

This is the first time I’ve heard this asked at a checkpoint, and the client servicing bugger — Tamil — hands over his ID. The troop looks it over, asks him where he’s from — Ratnapura — and hands the ID back. They’re more interested in my ID, which looks like it’s been through the digestive tract of an elephant thanks to my having gone swimming with it in my pocket, years ago. With a stern instruction to get a new ID, we’re waved off.

A couple of minutes later, the van slows down again — police VCP. Out we get again.

“Any Tamils here?” we’re asked again, in a much more nasty tone. Something tells me trouble’s on the way.

This time the cops ask the Tamil servicing guy for the police registration paper he’s supposed to carry, issued by the cop shed in the area he’s residing in — Wellawatte. He doesn’t have it, and explains it’s expired and he’s waiting for the new one.

The cops then say they’re gonna arrest him and the rest of us can leave. I explain to the cop that we’re all employeed by an ad agency, and I can vouch for the Tamil dude. No chance.

“How do we know he’s not a Tiger?” I’m asked.

Now this guy is in client servicing, and a proper written client brief is about the limits of their skills. Complicated things like explosives and suicide jackets are a bit beyond them. I explain all this, but the cop doesn’t believe me.

Meantime, he calls over his superior, a very nasty looking up-from-the-ranks SI who, in a good-cop-bad-cop way, says that he’s arresting our man now, and I can jolly well bugger off on my way. I try to sweet talk him, and convince them that we’re all just harmless ad types they don’t need to waste time on. People who know me well, will remember that I’ve got a lot of experience with cops, both civilian and military. At this point, good cop asks me if I can cast him in a TV commercial. Now this guy makes Pancho Villa look like Brad Pitt, but I say OK, sure. Things seem to be calming down.

At this point my writer — female, Sinhalese, pissed off — gets into the story and tells the cops that if the Tamil guy’s being taken in, we’ll have to come too, since we can’t just leave a colleague. Bad cop then gets really bad, and says, yeah, sure, we’ll take you all in. He then leans towards my writer and tells her that he’d make her cry tonight. He walks away and Brad fills in the silence by telling us stories of what a big bad bastard his bad cop boss is.

OK then, so I pitch back into Brad and turn on what’s left of the Blacker tact at 3:30am. After a few minutes of negotiations, Brad tells me that for, say, two-thousand rupees he can convince his boss to let us go. Done. Two-thou it is, and bad cop becomes not so bad anymore, and with a sharky grin tells the Tamil guy that it’s nothing personal and they’re just doing their job.

Now, I know that the suicide bomber who blew up the minister in Akuressa today didn’t go through that checkpoint, but I wonder if he or she went through one just like it, and I wonder how much the cops charged. Well, hey, Tigers, if you’re attacking Colombo, there’s a checkpoint I know you’ll find useful. It’ll only cost you two-thousand rupees.

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March 10, 2009 - Posted by | Security, War | , , , , ,

28 Comments »

  1. Makes my blood boil. But what now? Can you guys actually do something about it? can you take action or lodge a complaint with higher authorities? or is that an utterly futile exercise?

    Comment by delilahsays | March 10, 2009 | Reply

  2. Sickening. :/

    And the pic… it’s the guy in the blue scarf I tell ya! 😛

    Comment by Makuluwo | March 10, 2009 | Reply

  3. Cops are the biggest assholes. Lost my ID this time in SL and was taking my license around. Multitudes of army checkpoints no problem. On my last night in SL on Thimbi, the bloody police checkpoint seemed ready to take me in because I only had the license. The OIC was the biggest asshole I’ve met in a long time.

    Comment by N | March 11, 2009 | Reply

  4. That’s what’s retarded. Sometimes they’re just looking for money. That’s huge bribe though, crazy.

    Comment by indi | March 11, 2009 | Reply

  5. Freak show crazy…
    You gave me the jitters.
    As for your generalization of suits, hmph…
    SFX: Loud release of gas.

    Comment by DD | March 11, 2009 | Reply

  6. Well tht’s the SL police for u… this is the usual behaviour isnt it..

    Comment by Acromantula | March 11, 2009 | Reply

  7. Another day in Sri Lanka. Me and my friends were “arrested” by Piliyandala police when I was a young lad, for no apparent reason, while walking out from night tea shop after a late diner, took us to Piliyandala police at middle of the night. They said they have rights to do that under emergency law and also lock us up for 14 days without prosecution. The same bad cop- good cop drama went on for few hours while one of my friends crying in a dark corner. Eventually they realize we absolutely have no money, they let us go. None of us were Tamils, but when we left the bloody police station, we wished, we could kill those buggers, go to their funeral and kill the mourners, then dance on their graves.

    Comment by sam | March 11, 2009 | Reply

  8. cops are the biggest dicks ever. we got pulled over and they accused us of being prostitutes til we paid them off. what cock. but disgusting how easily they can be bought off, and then they say things like “tightening security” and wonder why we laugh.

    Comment by T | March 11, 2009 | Reply

  9. Hello David,

    My name is Mark Parton. I’m an Australian radio announcer based in Canberra, the national capital. I work at a talk radio station, 2CC. I speak to a wide selection of bloggers from time to time on my program. We just talk about their experiences and things making the news in their part of the world. Despite a lot of searching, I’m yet to find someone in Sri Lanka.

    I stumbled across your blog by accident today. I’m very very impressed.

    Sorry to leave this message here in the comments section, but I just couldn’t find an email contact.

    How would you feel about doing some radio sporadically in Australia.

    Let me know.

    You have my email

    Mark

    Comment by Mark Parton | March 11, 2009 | Reply

  10. Delilah – Don’t really see much point. Complaints just bring more trouble usually. My priority at the time was to get us all outta there safely.

    Indi – Actually it wasn’t too bad. I know three guys who were picked up — Tamils from Canada — and held for days til it looked like they were gonna miss their flights out. Ultimately, a Sinhalese friend had to pay the cops twenty-thousand a head to get them out.

    Mark – Thanks, I’ll be in touch.

    Comment by David Blacker | March 11, 2009 | Reply

  11. these cops are dumb fucks. the army folks are more diciplined.
    I once had trouble with a bunch of dicks at an air force check point – for no aparent reason they called me pakaya etc.. I was only 17 then. I think it’s bcos I didn’t have an ID or some such thing. I went back with my father, this time around they called me sir…. (I didn’t know what to say)

    But from whatever I heard from most people cops are the worst though I was lucky enough, not to have had any trouble with them.

    One time Chandrika came to visit the I was living. She was to come on monday morning, but the police closed off the entire area after 10 am sunday morning :).
    I was comming back from church with my brother, and my car was stopped by a PC and was told that I cannot enter until monday evening !!!. I said that I live in the area and what am I to do until then?
    An SSP guy with a massive tummy just came by and asked the cop to allow me to go. I was certainly puzzeled. Neither me nor the pc ever siad anything to the SSP. He just acted on his own. Surely both myself, my brother and the PC looked a bit surprised.

    Comment by ranuka | March 12, 2009 | Reply

  12. My experience was slightly different. That was when a Tamil friend of mine was giving his liver a break. He was the designated driver and coming out of Orient Club we were flagged down at Ried Avenue. The cops got on my friends case and insisted he was drunk. My friend kept defending until the cop “accused” him of being Tamil. My friend started by saying Ädo pakaya umba dannawada mama kawda kiyala”(you cunt do you know who I am?). And the cop actually backed off! I thought it was funny, but my friend didn’t.
    It only proved one thing. Cops are assholes.

    Comment by Captain | March 12, 2009 | Reply

  13. At the rate this is going there will be few Tamils left in Colombo or the South.

    Comment by worf | March 12, 2009 | Reply

  14. @Worf
    Really…anyone kicking them out??

    Frankly Tamils brought this upon themselves.. (the whole racial profiling thing).. well some Tamils at least…instead of going after lost privileges since independence they should hv started integrating in to the Sri Lankan society (notice i used da word Sri Lankan)

    And yes the cops are ass-holes..one of my friends were walking home some where in dehivala late at night a little bit drunk..with a handful of calenders given to one of them from the office and the cops actually accused them of putting up “anti-national” posters and they hd to spend the night at the station..

    Comment by Acromantula | March 12, 2009 | Reply

  15. Worf, they’ll be OK — just have some money handy.

    Acromantula — what exactly IS this “Sri Lankan society”? Tamils are part of Sri Lankan society, so what do they have to integrate into? What Tamils are NOT a part of is Sinhalese society. It’s like telling an African-American to integrate into American society.

    Comment by David Blacker | March 12, 2009 | Reply

  16. What ever you may believe Tamils are part of the Sri Lankan society is by name only.

    How many Tamils actually believe in living in a united Sri Lanka? LTTE or no LTTE the ultimate goal of many Tamils is to gain a separate piece of land to live away from Sinhalese and Muslims. I’m frankly tired of hearing Tamils saying “we’re against the LTTE but we want self determination” federalism etc.
    If they’re a part of the Sri Lankan society they would not be complaining..

    Comment by Acromantula | March 12, 2009 | Reply

  17. I ask you again, Acromantula, what is this Sri Lankan society you say Tamils are not a part of?

    Your comment is full of vapid generalisations. Who are these “many” Tamils? Most of the Tamils I know are quite happy to live amongst Sinhalese and Muslims, as long as they’re treated the same.

    The LTTE, federalism, self-determination, and so many other phrases are a result of the discrimination Tamils have (and do) face. If you’re tired of hearing them ask for it, imagine how tired they must be of the discrimination.

    You say they must integrate — they have. They’re Sri Lankan as the Sinhalese. They’re not, however, Sinhalese, so if you expect them to integrate into a Sinhalese nation, that’s wrong

    Comment by David Blacker | March 12, 2009 | Reply

  18. Acro says it all.

    Good post

    Comment by Jack Point | March 12, 2009 | Reply

  19. I must say I am not that shocked to read this as the demeanor of the police has always been shameful. I wonder if an increment in their salaries would stop them from taking bribes and actually doing a decent job of policing. It is getting to a point where people are harassed and abused simply because they are Tamils! I must say I agree with you 100% when you say Tamils do not need to integrate into a Sri Lankan society as they are already Sri Lankan. When would people realise that all Tamils are not Terrorists and as long as we stay in that mentality we will never find peace in this country. Also we need to have proper media freedom for the Tamil diaspora and all Sri Lankan expatriates to find out about what is actually happening in the country and that all Sinhalese are not out there to get them. So both Sinhalese and Tamils need to stop and think about what they are saying and doing and how it is effecting the country at large. For that to happen we need a good government that would grant the media freedom and uphold human rights.

    Comment by principalamzy | March 14, 2009 | Reply

  20. “Any Tamils ?” is sick. What if he/she is tamil? What do you say blacklight arrow? Humans right? 🙂

    Comment by N B | March 17, 2009 | Reply

  21. well frankly the cops are definitely a messed up bunch. but are we helping by paying them off when they harrass us? is that helping? perhaps its the very knowledge that they know that certain people will pay them off that leads them to do this in the first place.

    didnt it occur to you to pursue justice for your colleague and take it through the whole process? and if everyone did this, wont it integrate some sort of solution to the problem? as in the cops only arresting people who are genuine suspects instead of those they think they can make a buck out of?

    Comment by TheWhackster | March 20, 2009 | Reply

  22. True enough. Its a vicious cycle. And yes we contribute by giving in when bribes are solicited. But at the time my priority was to avoid having this guy arrested. Anything could happen to him once he’s taken in. Also I’ve found that trying to pursue the matter to gain justice just makes it worse. Or at best its useless. My brother was once taken in and held overnight just for stopping his car to have a smoke. When he tried to report it he was told by the cops that if he did his house just might be broken into. Unlike with minor traffic offenses, a bribe is the only way out. In an earlier comment I described how three Canadian tamils were held til they were likely to miss their flights which might have meant losing their jobs. Seeking justice in that case wouldve been pointless.

    The police force has to be cleaned up totally if this country is ever to become law abiding.

    Comment by David Blacker | March 21, 2009 | Reply

  23. Racism, we’re doing it excellent.

    Comment by The End | March 23, 2009 | Reply

  24. […] first is a narrative of award winning Sri Lanka novellist David Blacker’s experience at a Police checkpoint. We all know that (a certain class) of Tamils are looked upon and treated differently at most […]

    Pingback by Identity and suicide on blogs « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) | March 29, 2009 | Reply

  25. i HATE cops!!!!

    Comment by Dee | March 30, 2009 | Reply

  26. Look, cops are despised in every society on this planet except that of their own kind. That said, I have worked on occasion with the Sri Lankan police authorities and even they admit that a majority of their personnel are on the ‘take’. However, they have a major inferiority complex and when they run into people whom they consider as being ‘better off’ than them they will go to extremes to make those people have as unpleasant an experience as possible. So Mr.Blacker, best is to comply and pacify instead of being put in the Sri Lankan criminal justice sytem for 2 weeks until the magistrate learns that there’s absolutely no reason to hold you.

    Comment by stormshadow1977 | April 17, 2009 | Reply

  27. […] not use their position to hurt you (essentially a mugging by a person of situational authority – David Blacker has grim example of this type) […]

    Pingback by P2P bribery Sri Lanka – a quick overview « Cerno | May 12, 2009 | Reply

  28. What’s up, just wanted to mention, I loved this post. It was funny. Keep on posting!

    Comment by ativan | February 19, 2013 | Reply


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