|Thursday, 29 July 2004|
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The public and crime-busting
An important point to emerge in current deliberations by the law enforcement authorities on beefing-up security in the country is the lack of communication between the public and the police.
This is hampering intelligence gathering by the law enforcers in fighting crime, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Security, Law and Order, Tilak Ranaviraja, was quoted saying at a press briefing.
While earnest efforts are underway to revamp the country's security apparatus to curb crime, a non-communicative public, we must admit, would prove a stumbling block in this drive to improve the law and order situation.
The recent killings at Kottawa have brought these issue into focus and we hope a serious effort would now be made to locate the pitfalls to stepped up security, along with the launching of initiatives to rectify them.
We need to concede right away that the possibility of curbing crime is minimal in the absence of a cooperative attitude on the part of the public towards resolving the problem. If the public is not willing to confide in the police and the law enforcers on matters relating to crime, we do not see how the scourge could be contained.
More specifically, the public needs to volunteer information to the police on crimes being perpetrated, if any forward movement is to be registered in tackling crime.
Terrorist violence, in particular, could be impeded if information on it is forthcoming from the public to the police. This bolsters the intelligence gathering operations of the law enforcers. If this doesn't happen substantially, crime-busting would prove ineffective. Right now, the law enforcers are up against this poser.
While security considerations may be compelling some sections of the public to go slow on information to the police, there is no denying the fact that the Lankan public has never been particularly civic-conscious and sensitive to public security considerations.
In short, the safety of society has never been a top priority among the public. Consequently, public cooperation with police on crime-busting has been minimal.
If current efforts at curbing crime are to prove successful, the public needs to cooperate more closely with the police. Information on crime should be volunteered to the authorities, more readily and consistently.
The Lankan public should get over its habitual complacency if advances are to be made in the battle against crime. We need to realise that crime wouldn't fade away if we ignored it. The public should join hands with the police to curb crime. The police, on the other hand, should work out ways and means of attracting public cooperation.
Maintenance of security is a prime concern of President Kumaratunga. Every citizen is duty bound to lend her a helping hand by making the task of the law enforcers easy. They must bolster the intelligence of the police.
Conserving cultural sites
The wilful destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan sent shockwaves around the world, which stood aghast as the Talebans dynamited this priceless work of art and object of faith.
Although this was a very high profile case, the destruction of icons of heritage continues unabated. Cultural icons do not belong to one particular country or community. They belong to humanity.
Here in Sri Lanka, many ancient places of worship are ransacked and destroyed by so-called treasure hunters. Around the world, many religious and other monuments are neglected, without any efforts being made to conserve them. Many are exposed to the elements and pollution.
This will be the focus of a conference on heritage conservation in Southeast Asia now being held in Colombo, under the aegis of the World Monument Fund and the International Council for Monuments and Sites. The two-day conference will comprise round-table discussions of topics such as issues of sustainable conservation and the promise of cultural tourism.
Delegates attending the conference have pointed out that many monuments in South and Southeast Asia are in danger owing to negligence and pollution.
UNESCO's World Heritage in Danger list currently features 35 sites threatened by industry or mining, pollution, looting, war, uncontrolled tourism, poaching and other problems.
Some monuments have reached a critical factor vis-a-vis the large number of tourists visiting them daily. Tourists leave food, polythene and other waste material at many cultural sites, ruining their beauty and value.
Raising public awareness on the importance of conserving historic monuments is thus essential. Governments can bring laws and regulations on heritage conservation, but these will be confined to words without public cooperation. The fact that cultural monuments must be preserved for posterity must be firmly instilled in the public psyche.
It does not mean that Governments should adopt an hands-off approach in this regard. UNESCO has shown the way to Governments around the world with its World Heritage Sites program, which covers many monuments in Sri Lanka as well.
Government departments and agencies such as the Department of Archaeology, the Central Cultural Fund, the Urban Development Authority and the Central Environment Authority must coordinate conservation efforts.
Tough action must be taken against those who vandalise cultural sites and try to smuggle antiquities out of the country. Light sentences will not act a deterrent to would-be and repeat offenders.
We cannot think of a future if we forget the past. The international community must evolve a mechanism to protect the legacies of mankind for millennia to come.
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