Checkpoint

Driving down Galle Road
A stop sign pulls me over
I comply and roll the shutter down
A man in khaki steps beside me
Yes, officer, I have an identity
But you’re not going to find it
On the back of a card
You will never know who I am
Or everything I’ve done
Or if I do believe
The Earth revolves around the Sun
What is it to you to which religion I belong?
Which class, caste, creed, or race that I run?
I am but human, just as much as you
So what am I still doing here?
Officer, are we through?

photo by flickr user meurer

photo by flickr user meurer

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Comments
18 Responses to “Checkpoint”
  1. sittingnut says:

    are you sure the officer’s primary interest is in your petty little identity or religion, class, caste, creed, or race ?

    i think they want to know whether you want to kill?

    in case you forget ( which i doubt ) , ppl did get killed . those dead ppl were denied their rights to live, or to write poetry , or simply look at the sun. children who did not know sun from earth were killed , and maimed . they, their relatives, and friends, still suffer.

    some times these officers’ prevented that ( in some cases at cost to their own lives )

    flippant insults in pedestrian poetry is their reward .

    well as they say you will get as you give. i promise you that. just don’t complain like a pussy.

    • St. Fallen says:

      Asking questions is not the same as complaining. You seem to think you know my attitude towards everything, here’s the thing, you don’t.

      Yes, of course they’re doing their job and it serves a purpose. However, people have been harassed too, made to feel like lesser people or judged to be more of a threat. I’m not talking of this in the context of suicide bombers, but every other offence. I know people who’ve been put through worse than their friends of a different race while having been caught for the same thing. Is a Tamil more likely to hide drugs up his ass?

      I’m not complaining, merely questioning, and thank you for your answer.

      • sittingnut says:

        as i said, you are using flippant insults against those officers in pedestrian poetry in the post .
        you are complaining in the comment now (which i expected a pussy like you to do)

        i don’t knwo about your attitudes but i can read what you wrote.
        you are generalizing in the post and comment. by implying check points are there to harass tamils and so officers there deserve insults

        if there is harassment you should be specific . place person etc etc .

        if you generalize like you did, you are doing exactly the same thing as you (falsely) say these officers do, generalize that members of a group ( officers at check points , tamils) are guilty of what a few of them do

  2. “Is a Tamil more likely to hide drugs up his ass?”
    Mate, I’m well aware tis ur poetry n shit butt ur makin statements that are way beside da point!

    May I add a few more Qs-
    1. Is a Tamil more likely to be an LTTEr than a burgher?
    2. Is a Afghani muslim more likely to be an Al Qaeda than a Swiss Catholic?
    3. Is a 96 year old lady more likely to be a serial killer than a person who has been in a mental asylum for murder?

    The checkpoints are not for catching drugs, mate

    • St. Fallen says:

      checkpoints are for ensuring our security in general, and drugs can be considered a threat
      your questions are skewed (except for the third), it’s based on known facts and probability
      I’m talking about OUTSIDE what is known, I’m talking about judging without any basis

      where am I making statements? questions are not statements, at least mine aren’t
      and how is it besides the point? it’s my poem, I decide what the point is, and you clearly haven’t gotten it.

  3. vrwvw says:

    and who or what have they ever caught?

  4. vrwvw says:

    p.s they dont even have computers accessing any kind of data bank to run a check on your identity, so are all these c/point ppl highly skilled at remembering names/faces/criminal records of the sl population? even from outstations? dont make me laugh! they scribble some shit on a notepad and taht’s it.

  5. Black Rose says:

    An ID doesn’t carry the person you are or the personality you possess. All it does is give you the the name of the individual by which many people take up prejudice…

    I liked it, but I kept thinking that maybe you should have ended last sentence with “done” rather than “through”. Just my opinion…

  6. seanhenricus says:

    Since Girigoris mentioned burghers in his example I have a check point story to tell…

    Dutugemu St./Stafford Ave Checkpoint – 9pmish on a Friday night.
    Myself and my best friend (both burgher). His burgher wife and my sinhalese GF in my car. All live in Colombo and no one had been drinking.

    They stopped us as per usual. We gave them IDs but they insisted that we get out of the vehicle. Maybe the girl’s shorts had something to do with it but that’s merely speculation on my part.
    We get out… talk to them politely in sinhalese but talk amongst ourselves in English as we always do. They seem to take offense at this.
    We didn’t say anything derogatory. We were mostly trying to decide where to go for coffee. After they checked the girls, my mate told them in English to get back in the car. The cops/army (there were both) said something to the effect of “these people are speaking in English (kaduwa) so that we can’t understand”… and proceeded to keep us there for at least 10 minutes. In addition to the usual “where are you coming from – where are you going”, we had to go through:
    Open boot.
    Take out spare tyre.
    Open glove box.
    What’s in the bag.
    Show girl’s handbags
    etc.

    Question: Is it now “suspicious” to talk english at a checkpoint?

    • St. Fallen says:

      good question, but you can’t really blame them
      they’re doing their job, and if you seem like you’re hiding something, then they’re gonna want to look

    • chanux says:

      Next time in a checkpoint, just speak sinhala among you guys too. Hope it won’t be that hard ;).

      Simple answers dude.

      • St. Fallen says:

        but a difficult reality.

      • seanhenricus says:

        Simple enough… but what if I don’t want to?

        Last time I checked, there was no requirement (legal or otherwise) to speak Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. Furthermore… English is designated a link language in our Constitution, isn’t it? Or has that got thrown out with all the other bits like “freedom of speech” and “freedom of movement”?

  7. Jack Point says:

    Sean Henricus

    Thats a good vignette of the problems that people encounter. Women and minorities have complained of harassment in the past. Now it seems that they will also harass those that they deem to be ‘wrong’ class?

  8. Aamina says:

    “Is a Tamil more likely to be an LTTEr than a burgher?”

    “Is a Afghani muslim more likely to be an Al Qaeda than a Swiss Catholic?”

    Most of the terrorist attacks in Colombo have been conducted by LTTE operatives disguised as Sinhalese and carrying national ID cards which show them as being Sinhalese.
    Even in India, when the terrorist attacks took place, all the militants were disguised as Hindus. They were clean shaven and even sported saffron threads around their wrists.

    The ones harrassed by checkpoints are actually innocent. Terrorist groups are not stupid. They are not going to enter a target area identified as the obvious.

    My friend’s Tamil maid was traveling by bus with her daughter. They were on their way to the Maharagama Cancer Hospital for the maid’s treatment. Because her daughter sported a pottu on her forehead and was thus identifiable as Tamil, the bus conductor panicked and reported them to the next checkpoint. They were made to get off the bus and checked. Only when she showed them the scars of her chemotherapy did they realise their mistake and got her on the next bus to the hospital. Incidents like this only aggravate the racial divide and further the idea that a minority group is being discrimminated against.

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