|Friday, 30 January 2004|
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Cracking down on illegal weapons
A planned crackdown on illegal firearms, which have hitherto proved elusive, on the directions of President Kumaratunga, would draw the accolades of many in view of the current crime wave and issues flowing from it.
As is well known, illegal firearms are a factor in increased crime and controlling their spread is one of the most effective ways of curbing it.
We therefore welcome the State's decision to provide a one month amnesty for the turning in of unlicensed weapons, following which a crackdown would be conducted to round them up.
Although the country was witness to "crackdowns" of this kind in the past, they have, obviously, failed to produce the desired results.
The general allegation is that, until the Interior Ministry came under the purview of the President, the illegal weapons hunt was not conducted with the right degree of vigour, sense of purpose and impartiality.
In fact, crime showed a tendency to burgeon further with the State machinery at times being put to partisan political purposes. This distortion considerably impeded the crackdown on crime and, in fact, encouraged its resurgence.
It is our hope that a fresh start would now be made in the effort to seize illegal firearms. No doubt, the success of this effort would depend on how effectively the law and order machinery - including, of course, the Police - is activated for this purpose.
The President would need to ensure that there is no let up on this score. A few weeks back President Kumaratunga showed firm and admirable resolve to nip religious disharmony in this country, in the bud, and peace on this front has, generally speaking held, although reports of sporadic violence on places of Christian worship continue to trickle in.
While these intransigent forces bent on triggering religious disharmony need to be apprehended and brought to justice without further delay, the same spirit and resolve should be showed by the law enforcement authorities in rounding-up illegal weapons and bringing those who wield them to justice.
We do not underestimate the complex nature of this operation. In this country, the criminalization of politics and the reverse process of the politicization of criminality have gone hand-in-hand, feeding on and mutually sustaining each other.
Inasmuch as criminal elements have been allowed to take to politics and thereby tarnish and distort the political process, the growing politician - criminal nexus has led to an unprecedented involvement of the criminal underworld in the politics of the country.
This accounts for the proliferation of the politicians' private army phenomenon, although there are very many honest politicians who are untainted by these tendencies.
These are the reasons why there cannot be a let-up in efforts to hunt-down illegal arms. Both the State and the law enforcers should go about this task in a concerted, determined fashion, until all illegal power centres are brought to heel.
It truly is a World Wide Web. An email sent from one computer can be delivered to millions of inboxes worldwide in minutes. We can access a wealth of information on virtually any topic with the click of a mouse. We can travel from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe at the speed of light - without even leaving the chair.
This very integration is often the cause of the Internet's vulnerability. Viruses - programmes that can replicate inside hard disks and destroy data - can be sent to millions of computers via email, causing massive economic damage. Some of these viruses, which also target specific websites, are so new that anti-virus software cannot cope.
The latest such computer pathogen, coming hot on the heels of the SoBig virus, is a new version of the Mydoom virus. Dubbed Mydoom.B, it evades detection measures for the original virus. Mydoom.B is designed to attack the main websites of Microsoft and software vendor SCO.
The original Mydoom virus continues to spread, causing over 100 million infected e-mails to be sent. It could potentially be more destructive than SoBig, which caused over 300 million infected e-mails to be sent.
This is a cat-and-mouse game between hackers and crackers - authors of computer viruses and those who bust them. Defending computers against viruses has become a big business, with several firms specialising in anti-virus software.
They urge computer users to continuously update their virus protection software to ward off new infections.
Their biggest fear is that the bug could provide its author with a 'back door' to infected computers to control them remotely, possibly to coordinate an attack. Such a virus epidemic could create a global army of virtual soldiers who are at the command of the virus author.
The implications are frightening, to say the least. For example, what will happen if someone gains access to the mainframes controlling the world's nuclear weapons?
With the entire world depending upon computers for everything from communications to transport, hackers do have the potential to cause chaos on an unprecedented scale. A co-ordinated international effort is essential to thwart their destructive plans.
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