Tassie Seneviratne – outstanding Policeman
Tassie Seneviratne was a Police officer of unimpeachable integrity who served honourably during the time he was part of the Police force. This week Reminiscences features Tassie Seneviratne, a man of principles and who always stood for justice. Tassie was from an affluent family. His father, A. C. D. A. Seneviratne, was a lawyer and one time journalist at Lake House. His paternal grandfather was a District Judge.
“The main thing is how my mother struggled with a big family. We learnt to share the work and share everything be it feeding cattle, feeding chickens and all that. The caring and sharing started at home,” said Seneviratne.
Tassie had an adventurous childhood, hunting in the jungle as well as in the Muthurajawela swamps and mangroves. The game hunted was cooked by their mother and was indeed savoury. Those were the days! Tassie’s elder brother A. W. R. Seneviratne was a versatile sportsman and was sports master at S.Thomas’ Mount Lavinia and taught English at De Mazenod College, Kandana. Along with his brother, Tassie spent much outdoor life. “At that time game shooting was not easy. But we mastered the thing. There was plenty of scope around our own property. Of particular interest were the picnics in the Muthurajawela swamps.”
Tassie attended schooling at De Mazenod College, Kandana and S.Thomas’ Gurutalawa and Mount Lavinia. “Normally S.Thomas’ Mount is highly rated by so many. I can say having gone to De Mazenod College and then S.T.C before and after the war, that De Mazenod College was as good in education and sports. Because right from the start when I went to S.T.C. I was coming first in the class. That is what I had learnt from De Mazenod College.
"At De Mazenod College I was not second to anybody. I knew people like Seneka Bandaranayake, the Choksys who were highly rated. I used to come first in class and beat them for the Classics prize. But going to S.T.C helped me to get that confidence of pitting myself against the Thomians.”
For higher studies Tassie attended Aquinas Academy for Higher Education, but confessed that he did not excel there, since unlike his previous schools, he was not pushed or made to study.
“Even at that time I was looking for a planting job or joining the navy. We started a Rugger team and I was more interested in that.”
Police was not the first choice for Tassie. It was either planting or the Forest Department. An aunt of his whose brother was in the Police suggested to Tassie about joining the Police. He gave it a thought and sent the application not quite deciding to join the Police.
“I was called for interviews in the Police and during these interviews the applicants who had been selected up to a point from the various tests were interviewed together in class taken by the Assistant Director of Training, Fred Brohier, an ex- Royal Air Force pilot who had a very impressive personality.
He asked a question from the class as to whom a Police officers loyalty is due. Various answers were given by the candidates. Having heard these answers Brohier stated that a Policeman owed his loyalty to “no mother’s son”, but to the law of the land. Then and there I decided that the Police was the place for me,” explained Tassie.
Tassie was trained at Kalutara Police Training School. “There they train you and make you feel that the Police is everything good. And you come out and you are disillusioned in the sense that you find that what you were taught is not what is being done by many.
"And then it is a challenge, whether you will succumb and toe the line or sometimes if you don’t, your progress is affected. So I had to make decisions. I didn’t make it to be a DIG or Senior DIG and I’m quite happy that I held my own and come off with an unblemished record,” said Tassie.
Tassie also feels strongly about the murder of 600 Policemen by the LTTE and shared his thoughts on that subject. “I suppose everyone in the Police would have the same feelings. As for me I happened to be in charge of Police grievances at the Police Headquarters during that time. So it was my duty to go to these areas and find out what happened.
What bothers me even now is that there has been no official acceptance or recognition that those people were ordered to surrender, not that they had been overrun. They held on and held on well and were ordered to surrender. Today they are spoken of as people who were defeated. There must be an official acceptance. If there is an official investigation as to the circumstances of this killing which started with the order to surrender then that is something. These men were capable and prepared to fight.”
He further added that it was actually an illegal order. The men need not have listened. There is the right of private defence. They were ordered to surrender while they were fighting. In Kalmunai there was three hours of fighting. What is needed is an official inquiry. They surrendered against their wishes on a government order.
Asked as to what advice he would give a youngster who wanted to join the Police force, Tassie said that about two years back he would have said; “Don’t join the Police”. That was because there was militarization of the Police at that time. Anyone joining the Police that time was not doing Police work.
The Police were used and misused. And the public didn’t get service from the Police as they were entitled to. Today this situation has changed. The present government is interested in a people-friendly Police. The present IGP of Police will definitely do his utmost to achieve that. He is a man of integrity and is a capable person.
One of the most exciting moments of Tassie’s career was not the most pleasant one, when he got hammered at Tudalle. There was a church function and a musical show. The Police who were supposed to be on duty were not there and the people were drunk on the road. His daughter was in the car and they were trying to be funny. Somebody got on to the bonnet of the car and Tassie jerked the jeep and that somebody fell.
“And then they set upon me. I was thoroughly hammered. Someone else tried to come and help. I’m happy that day that I didn’t carry my side arm. If I had, I would definitely have shot those fellows and justified it legally. But in hindsight it was good it didn’t happen that way. At that time I had to think of my daughter. They could very well have snatched the gun from me and shot me or the others because I really panicked,” explained Tassie.
For photos log on to http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/01/10/fea02.asp
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