The writer and his partner were invited on 1 January 2022 by Ceylon oldest living Olympian boxer, retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Sumith Liyanage, with some guests. Our conversation at the lunch table discussed details of Sumith’s career in Sri Lanka’s Police force. During the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Sumith Liyanage fought in the same ring where young Cassius Clay as an amateur fought earlier in the light heavyweight category. It was at the Palazzo Dello Sports arena, and he fought against Poland’s Jerzy Adamski. Sumith Liyanage was an old Anandian and Nalandian. He showed his liveliness in cricket when he played for Ananda and Nalanda. He was an opening fiery right-hand bowler, but his forte was boxing.
During New Year’s lunch when the topic of Boxing came up, the writer asked Sumith Liyanage whether he ever confronted Cassius Clay in the ring during the Olympics. He answered back with a smile : “Had I ever fought Cassius Clay, then the legendary boxer would have remained Cassius Clay and I would have ended up as clay! ”
The International press releases indicated how the national featherweight champion of Ceylon, Sumith Liyanage, fought like a gladiator and confronted European champion of Poland, Jerzy Adamski with a vicious right punch in the first round but lost on points. The press releases also wrote that “If Sumith Liyanage were to win against his opponent, Ceylon would have shaken up the boxing world!”
Sumith Liyanage was known as the ‘Black Panther’ in the local Media because of his darkish complexion and professional dexterities. After participating in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, he won medals at the Asian Games in Bangkok and Thailand and Gold Medals in International Boxing events in New Delhi and Karachi. Sumith Liyanage was the former Boxing Vice President of the Amateur Boxing Association; later, he became the Manager cum Coach.
Sumith Liyanage joined the Police Force as a Sub-Inspector and rose to Deputy Inspector General of Police (D.I.G.) in 1994 and retired on 24 June 1996. He was one of the honest, fearless, and respected Police officers of the day, who always cogitated in action. One incident that comes to the writer’s mind is when Sumith went to raid a gambling ring, and the gambling leader picked a crossbar to attack Sumith. It was a life and death situation for him facing a gang leader. However, Sumith faced the opponent bravely, stating: “You bloody young brat, you still do not know who I am, and gave a powerful uppercut punch. The challenger fell to the ground and was arrested immediately.”
He had a distinguished career of 38 years in the Police Force to become one of the best sportsmen Ceylon ever produced. He excelled in cricket, boxing, shooting and motor racing. His colourful gentlemanly personality and qualities of high discipline, honesty and integrity made him one of the most respected and loved Police officers in the police force.
After a brilliant career in boxing, he excelled in pistol shooting in 1991. Later he was the coach for the Sri Lanka Police Pistol team. He became the champion in rifle and pistol shooting and helped Sri Lanka win the Pistol shooting in 2007 at the World Police and Firearm games in Adelaide, Australia.
Sumith Liyanage had to bear the most heart breaking news when staff at the Police Commission took a strange stance in response to his appeals he made to the Commission in connection with his ‘pistol saga‘.
For years, he struggled with the Police Commission, surrounding his ‘target pistol’. Regrettably, it appears that he has lost the battle! In the end, Sumith wrote in detail to the Editor of the Newsletter of the ‘Retired Senior Police Officers Association on what took place. The Editor published his letter in its entirety. The following is the text of his letter to the Editor.
“I refer to my article by the Editor regarding the sad and ineffective state of the National Police Commission. Whilst agreeing wholeheartedly with the Editor on the comments presented, I wish to give further evidence supporting my claim.
“Justice and fair play are the aspirations of citizens of all civilised societies. Equality before the law and impartiality in dispensing justice are hallmarks of a healthy democracy. It is tragic that the National Police Commission (NPC), the very highest Body that ensured the implementation of these ideals, miserably failed up to date or sidestepped its mandated duties in the most ignorant of ways.”
“Many, including very senior officers of the Police Department, who endlessly expounded high ideals whilst in service, suddenly found that these very noble qualities had vanished mysteriously with their appointment to this so-called august body. They are no longer there, and I will refrain from naming them.
“I sincerely hope that the duo appointed to the NPC and renowned for their forthrightness, ability and who could boast of a high degree of honesty and integrity will size- up the situation and contribute towards a radical change in the NPC.”
“As a retired DIG who has put my life on the line of fire ” in operational areas” in guarding several VVIP’s and Executive Heads of the State, I am the innocent victim and continue to be denied justice.
“To put down facts very briefly: In April 2009, a Bank Robbery took place. During the investigation seven suspects were arrested, including my son, a former Commissioned Officer of the Sri Lanka Army. The mastermind of the robbery was a Bank Manager, who was arrested based on his confession. The Pistol used in the robbery was recovered from the Bank Manager’s kitchen, as per notes made by the investigating officer. It was a plastic toy pistol bearing the name ‘Yukon.’
Blatant lie and Fabrication
“The Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) took over this investigation. It was handled by an ASP, who telephoned me for reasons best known to him, and requested that my ‘target pistol’ be produced to him for examination. My ‘ target pistol’ costs over one million rupees according to current value. After having consulted the lawyer appearing on behalf of the accused I handed over the pistol to the Director CCD in the presence of the said ASP; neither statements were recorded, nor any receipts issued. Consequent notes of inquiry stated stated that the pistol was found after a search of my house, which was a blatant lie and diabolical fabrication. Little did I know my Pistol would be introduced into the case to make it look like an armed robbery.”
“In this connection, I made several written complaints to all concerned, including the IGP, Attorney General and the NPC on 7 December 2015. I received a response dated 20 May 2016 (after six months) from the Director (Western Province) signed for Secretary to NPC advising me that they had decided to summon both parties to investigate. I was further directed by letter to present myself with my witnesses on 20 May 2016 at 2.30 p.m. Although I presented myself with the witnesses on this day at the NPC, no inquiry or investigation was held.”
“Subsequently, I received a letter dated 03 May 2016 signed by W.A.D.P. Lakshman (Director NPC) requesting that I present myself with my witnesses on 08 June 2016 to which I duly complied. Once more, to my utter disappointment, it was another day of wasting my time, as no inquiry was conducted on this day too for reasons unknown.”
“Incredibly, by letter dated 05 September 2016 bearing reference no. PC/PCID/WP/156/2015, A. G. Dharmadasa, Director PCID (WP) signing for Secretary NPC informed me the NPC had suspended the investigation, citing the pending case in Mt.Lavinia courts, which was the very cause on which I sought redress.”
“To summon an investigation with both parties present, and then abruptly suspend or cancel it, citing a baseless argument, stinks of the ineffectiveness partially on the part of the NPC, and the inability to hold the police department to accountability rather than being the Independent Commission that it touts itself to be.”
“The extent of its degeneration is amply reflected when retired Senior Police Officers concerned about the Police Department arrive at the conclusion the NPC is a damp squib! While the accountability of the Police Department remains no one’s concern.”
I’m utterly disappointed.
Signed – Sumith M. P. Liyanage.
The editor of The Retired Senior Police Officers’ Association commented on Sumith Liyanage’s letter in Issue in No.02 dated July 2019 as follows:
“Retired D.I.G. Sumith Liyanage most certainly merited an investigation. His prestige and creditability were way above those who had done injustice to him. It was an unpardonable travesty of justice on the part of respective IGPs and the NPC not to have had his complaint investigated. A dereliction of duty on their part was as serious an offence.”
If the Ceylon Police Commission can suppress a case from a former D.I.G., what more can the writer say about the Commission in the case of a complaint by an ordinary citizen of Sri Lanka?
picture credit: The Press