Sunday, January 31, 2016

Toilet Apartheid: Why not introduce paid toilets?

The Sunday Times carries an expose on railway toilets that are reserved exclusively for tourists. I guess the problem arises from a well-meaning but misguided attempt to make the railway more tourist friendly. 

There is a problem of dirty toilets and the railway probably lacks funds to employ enough people to keep the toilets clean.

The solution would be to introduce a system of paid toilets where the money collected is used to maintain the toilets. The toilets at the rest stops on the Southern Expressway operate in this way and are clean and usable.  Britain has a good system of paid toilets in railway stations.

Some money will need to be invested in upgrading the facilities and then maintaining them. The capital investment to install modern toilets at all railway stations could be beyond the capacity of the railway which lost Rs.11bn in 2014, in which case the upgrade and operation of the toilets could be tendered out to private contractors, who will run and maintain the toilets.

Travellers will enjoy better facilities and there need be no discrimination. Similarly the Government could also consider introducing dining cars on railways, run by the private sector.


Sunday, January 03, 2016

Is Sri Lanka a police state?

A friend of mine came across this and forwarded it to me. If this is correct its a very dangerous extension of police powers that need to be curbed.

The official website of the Sri Lanka police has a page of clarifications entitled "Find out the Truth". The website claims:

Recently, some news items were to be seen in circulation via internet misinforming the public with regard to the power of a police officer. We wish to stress the fact that it is not possible to mislead the citizens of a country like Sri Lanka, a country with a high literacy rate and a reputed intelligentsia.

What follows is a set of fairly straight forward questions and answers but one answer is especially troubling.

Q:Police Officers cannot enter your home or work premises without a Court Order in writing. You have the fullest right to ask for it. If they try to enter by force, you have a right to object it.

A: It has been clearly stated in Section 25 of Criminal Procedure Code that any Police Officer in uniform has the authority either to enter or to inspect a house or a place of business at any time without a Court Order.  “If ingress to such place cannot be obtained under section 24 it shall be lawful in any case for a person acting under a warrant, or in any case in which a warrant may issue but cannot be obtained without affording. The person to be arrested an opportunity of escape, for a peace officer to enter such place and search therein, and in order to effect an entrance in to such place to break open any outer or inner door or window of any place whether that of the person to be arrested or of any other person, if after notification of his authority and purpose and demand of admittance duly made he cannot otherwise obtain admittance.
The police should not, unless in very exceptional circumstances be allowed to enter into a house without a search warrant issued by a court. Under the extraordinary powers granted by the PTA or the state of emergency it may have been possible, but it should not be so under the normal laws. If such power was available it needs to be restricted immediately.

The UK laws on the powers of entry are fairly clear, we need to ensure that similar restrictions on police power are placed here.

The law in the UK is :

Powers of entry

Police can only enter premises without a warrant if a serious or dangerous incident has taken place.
Situations in which the police can enter premises without a warrant include when they want to:
  • deal with a breach of the peace or prevent it
  • enforce an arrest warrant
  • arrest a person in connection with certain offences
  • recapture someone who has escaped from custody
  • save life or prevent serious damage to property.
Apart from when they are preventing serious injury to life or property, the police must have reasonable grounds for believing that the person they are looking for is on the premises.
If the police do arrest you, they can also enter and search any premises where you were during or immediately before the arrest. They can search only for evidence relating to the offence for which you have been arrested or to some other offence which is connected with or similar to that offence, and they must have reasonable grounds for believing there is evidence there. They can also search any premises occupied by someone who is under arrest for certain serious offences. Again, the police officer who carries out the search must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is evidence on the premises relating to the offence or a similar offence.
In other circumstances, the police must have a search warrant before they can enter the premises. They should enter property at a reasonable hour unless this would frustrate their search. When the occupier is present, the police must ask for permission to search the property – again, unless it would frustrate the search to do this.
When they are carrying out a search police officers must:
  • identify themselves and - if they are not in uniform - show their warrant card, and
  • explain why they want to search, the rights of the occupier and whether the search is made with a search warrant or not.
If the police have a warrant, they can force entry if:
  • the occupier has refused entry, or
  • it is impossible to communicate with the occupier, or
  • the occupier is absent, or
  • the premises are unoccupied, or
  • they have reasonable grounds for believing that if they do not force entry it would hinder the search, or someone would be placed in danger.