Don't shield criminals
THE observations made at a ceremony in
Kandy by Ven. Udugama Sri Buddharakkhita Mahanayake Thera of the
Asgiriya Chapter of the Siam Maha Nikaya on the upsurge of crime and the
need to expeditiously punish criminal elements as reported in our lead
story yesterday should engage the serious attention of all thinking
elements in the country.
This should be particularly so since the venerable prelate had
lamented that this trend if not arrested would besmirch the good name of
the country beyond redemption.
It was said at one time that it was possible for a comely maiden
bedecked in the most expensive jewellery to walk from one end of Sri
Lanka to the other unmolested.
Today this would sound the most cynical joke although there is no
dearth of sermons and exhortations from politicians, religious leaders
and other such custodians of public morals on how the people should
conduct themselves in this 'Dhammadeepa."
The very fact that no less a personage than the Mahanayake Thera of
Asgiriya should have spoken as he has done demonstrates the extent to
which the nation's moral fibre has been eroded.
The reasons for this state of affairs are well known. Time was when
criminal elements were confined to the underworld and the underbelly of
society. However during the last three decades these criminals have
moved from the underworld to centre stage.
The main reason for this was that some powerful politicians resorted
to the help of such criminal elements to harass, suppress and finally
even eliminate their political opponents. Not so any moons ago one such
criminal, a rapist, was given a Presidential pardon and made the
bodyguard of a then rising Cabinet Minister. IRCs became necessary
adjuncts of ministerial security teams thus gaining them immunity from
Gang warfare proliferated and the political patronage which such
criminals enjoyed forged an unlovely nexus between the political and
An aspect of the problem to which the Asgiriya prelate has drawn
attention is the slow pace of the judicial system. Delays in trying
cases of serious crime and punishing their perpetrators seriously blunts
the deterrent potential of such punishment and makes criminals feel that
they can get away with anything.
Occasionally a scandal such as the Rita John rape and killing prods
the conscience of the nation but in time we go back to our lotus-eating
ways. The new Government has done well to instruct the Police to wage an
all-out crusade against crime, drugs, illicit liquor and prostitution
and while this has shown some results other outgrowths of this drive
seem to suggest that some elements of the Police themselves might be in
cahoots with the criminals.
It is therefore necessary that the Government at the highest levels
should make it clear that the crusade will not be affected by the
political or official patronage that some criminal elements might enjoy.
The message should go out loud and clear to all politicians: Don't
The anti-crime drive therefore should not be allowed to lose its
momentum. Some sharks should be netted in as a deterrent and the
judicial system will have to be activated to bring the culprits to book
Only a startling breakthrough by the combined forces of the Police
and the law can cut through the jungle of crime and carry the country
back to the sun-lit highlands of a safe society.