Crime and its causes
One could be stating the obvious by taking the
position that crime must be contained in this country on an
urgent basis. It is with the most excruciating anxiety that the
more sensitive among the local citizenry watch the daily crime
toll in the form of murders, brutal and insane violence visited
on the helpless and innocent, robberies and thefts of the most
unsettling kind, to name just a few examples of such
We are happy to note, however, that not all good persons are
choosing to remain silent. There is the Aggamahapanditha
Kotugoda Dhammawasa Anunayaka Thera, for instance, who calls for
the appointment of a Presidential Commission to explore ways of
curbing crime and to investigate its causes.
Crime in this country is a conundrum and is not amenable to
simplistic analyses. Suffice it to know that its causes are
numerous inasmuch as they are complex. Accordingly, it would be
futile to expect 'quick-fixes' to the knotty issue of crime
although the problem should be confronted head-on by the state
and the public. Concrete action must be initiated without
further delay to manage the problem, since resolving it
overnight is not within the realms of the possible.
There are two fundamental approaches to containing crime. One
is the law and order approach, wherein the state's law and order
machinery is used in an effort to quell crime and lawlessness.
In this approach, the relevant machinery is entrusted the task
of getting the citizenry to adhere to the law of the land,
through a process of enforcement. That is, the law and order
agencies are called on to play a pivotal role.
The other approach is long term in nature, wherein the causes
of crime are identified and efforts are made to eliminate these
causes. The latter approach is also more multidisciplinary in
nature, in that a wide range of expertise, including that of a
sociological, psychological and spiritual nature, is brought to
bear on the problem.
In the normal course of events it is a combination of these
approaches which is used in the management of crime. The
day-to-day law and order issues must be curbed by the state law
enforcement agencies through an application of the law, while
the social and economic reasons for crime, for instance, must be
ascertained and these amply remedied. For example, if increasing
income inequalities are accounting for crime, these causative
factors must be eliminated.
Likewise, if a lack of spirituality and moral awareness is
detected as precipitating crime these questions too must be
addressed by the state and other concerned sections on a
systematic and gradual basis. All this only goes to prove the
complex nature of crime and its containment. There are clearly
no simple answers to the crime question.
In our time, in addition, we confront the phenomenon of the
criminalization of politics wherein some politicians embroil
themselves with the criminal underworld and render the issue of
crime-containment increasingly complex and difficult to resolve.
Decriminalizing politics too emerges as an important task.
While a purely law and order approach might seem to work in
the short and medium terms it is the more arduous undertaking of
identifying the causes of crime and eliminating them that would
yield the more enduring and substantive results. But this is no
painless process in that it calls for patience and a high degree
of application to their task on the part of those seeking to
While the proposals of the Ven. Kotugoda Dhammawasa need to
be taken very seriously and studied in depth, we wish to join
our voices to his to the effect that the problem of crime cannot
be considered to be of secondary importance. Measures need to be
initiated right away to resolve it, for time is of the essence
and more and more innocent lives are lost to crime and
We need to remember that the 30 year conflict has done
immense damage to this country at a multiplicity of levels.
Among other things, it has had the effect of eroding the moral
restraints of sections of local society. Besides, it has taken a
heavy toll on the spirituality of some. The task at hand may
seem to be enormous but delaying the process of remedying the
blight might prove counter-productive.