|Monday, 2 June 2003|
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Wanted - a crime free society
The big guns in the North-East are silent, thanks to the ceasefire. Just when we thought that our homes and streets are safe, we hear gunfire of a different kind. These are guns in the hands of criminal gangs and contract killers who would not hesitate even for a second to take a life. It is not surprising that the newspapers are full of revolting accounts of gruesome murders.
The authorities seem to have woken up to the danger posed by the soaring crime rate to society. Newspapers reported yesterday that serious attention is being given to curtailing excessive security arrangements of politicos and to circulating 'Wanted' notices to nab hardcore criminals.
Inspector General of Police T.E. Anandarajah has also set up a "Special Striking Force" to combat hard drug trafficking and underworld activity. These are laudable moves that will go a long way towards bringing down crime and reassuring a populace living in fear.
Politicians from all parties were freely armed during the 1988-89 period of terror. They subsequently retained their security details and weapons ostensibly to face terrorist threats. It is well known that security officials and the politicians themselves used their weapons for private vendettas and other misdemeanours. The recent incident in Colombo where an MP was allegedly involved in a hotel brawl is a glaring example.
It is indeed timely for the authorities to reassess security needs of politicians, only a very few of whom actually need personal bodyguards and firearms. Disarming politicians and their henchmen should be an essential component of an anti-crime drive.
The authorities should also address the problem of the vast numbers of weapons in the hands of criminal gangs and Army deserters. Police believe that more than 30 gangs operate in the Western Province alone. In fact, taking a life has become a simple matter of a 'contract'.
In this context, displaying 'Wanted' notices and encouraging the public to inform police of any criminal activity are bold steps that would help law-abiding citizens. The true face of criminals should not be confined to police dossiers inaccessible to the public. They should be exposed to the public so that they cannot remain incognito.
Hounding out and exposing criminal elements will precisely be the task of the new Special Striking Force.
No room must be left for anyone, regardless of social or political rank, to interfere with its work. Officers attached to this unit must be completely above board and committed to rooting out criminal gangs. They have to overcome the public perception that some policemen maintain links with the underworld, sometimes in a three-way relationship that also includes politicians.
In the meantime, police must expedite investigations into a spate of unresolved crimes that have shocked the entire nation. Allowing the perpetrators to go scot-free would only lead to an erosion of public confidence in the police. It will also encourage more criminals to commit murder, rape and thefts at will.
Drugs are another menace that threatens our younger generation and the nexus between drug running and criminal activity needs no explanation.
Police should intensify efforts to nab the big drug barons and other elements associated with narcotics smuggling.
A completely crime-free society may be unattainable, but we should make all attempts to eradicate organised crime. A high level of cooperation between the police and the public will be vital in this exercise.
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