I’ve often been told that Army and Air force checkpoints are more courteous compared to Police checkpoints. But never really had the chance to compare, probably because there are none on my regular route.
Between Sunday night and yesterday however, I was stopped at 3 checkpoints, manned by personnel of each of the above forces and the difference in manner was stark.
Checkpoint 1 – Air force
Late Sunday evening I was rushing to hospital because my father had had an accident and I was asked to come as fast as I could because he was about to be taken in for immediate surgery. Imagine my agitation when we were stopped at a checkpoint just seconds away from the hospital. But I was amazed by how polite these guys were. It was hard to resent them for the delay when they were making such an effort to be gracious. Their ‘good evenings’ and ‘thank yous’ were pleasant and genuine.
Checkpoint 2 – Army
Same night my brother and I were driving around Colombo well past midnight looking for a particular drug my father needed but was out of stock everywhere. In my hurry to leave I had left my handbag behind along with my wallet and ID. Again these guys were really nice and did not detain us or hassle us in anyway when we explained the rush and why I didn’t have any form of identification on me.
Checkpoint 3 – Police
Yesterday I slipped out of a meeting to go see my father and the trishaw I took was stopped at a Police checkpoint. Trying to save time, I took my ID out the moment they waved the stop sign and promptly handed it to the policeman who approached from my side. For the next ten minutes he held my ID with not as much as a glance while attempting to make small talk in the most pathetic manner. His questions were irrelevant and inconsequential and all the while he kept pressing himself closer to me until he was literally breathing in my face. It was ugly, unpleasant and bordering on sexual harassment. I kept my cool simply because I couldn’t afford to waste time on a showdown or worse get myself hauled off to the police station. Finally the trishaw driver who was equally outraged asked if we could leave and this cop very reluctantly removed himself from the trishaw and let us go.
I agree that standing out on the road all day is no picnic and I would understand if these people were bad tempered or curt. But surely that is no excuse for this kind of behavior. They go around arresting school children for holding hands in public but these perverts can do whatever they want because they are in uniform.
The worst part however is that nothing can be done. I’m sure there is no point in complaining about this cop because they would simply protect their own. So what do you do? Who do you turn to?