Battling the underworld | Daily News

Battling the underworld

Joint Opposition MPs have seized on the unfortunate killing of national cricketer Dananjaya De Silva's father to flay the government for its alleged failure to protect the citizens and lending patronage to the underworld linked to the drug trade. JO politicians returning after paying their respects to the remains of Dehiwela Mt.Lavinia pohottuwa Municipal Councillor Ranjan De Silva took the government to task in vicious political diatribes quite oblivious to the solemnity of the occasion. Government leaders from the President and the Prime Minister, down to the IGP were torn apart and the immediate need for the advent of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to wipe out the underworld became the main theme.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa led the way by insisting that the underworld kingpins who were on the run during his time, seeking refuge abroad, was brought down by government politicians to do their dirty work, while drug lords were being protected by the government. He said the tragedy had occurred due to the actions of these drug kingpins who were operating under the shade of money and political umbrella.

Rajapaksa may be right in appreciating the problem as that having its origins in the drug business, but he too is as guilty, if not more, than the present government in doing precious little to eradicate the menace. On the contrary, it could be verily said that he encouraged the drug business by lending his open patronage to the purveyors of the drug trade, going to the extent of making a notorious politician who was known to one and all to be one of the country's premier drug barons, the Monitoring Minister of Defence.

It was the selfsame Mahinda Rajapaksa, it may be recalled, who flew by helicopter to rescue another notorious drug lord cum politician from Negombo, in whose home a large haul of drugs were detected by the STF. One could still picture Rajapaksa, as shown on television, donned in tracksuit and deck shoes, chest forward, marching to the residence of the politician under siege, accompanied by a sea of supporters of the latter to shouts of jayawewa. Needless to say, the politician was bailed out and the STF officers who made the detection received transfers for their trouble.

Much is also being made of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa's surgical operations to decimate the underworld, by the likes of Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila. Coming out of the funeral house Gammanpila said: “During the time of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, as Defence Secretary, only once in a blue moon that we heard of underworld activity. He was able to sweep the underworld members and drug kingpins. However, at present, not even a single day passes without a media report of underworld activity.”

Here again the operations against the underworld was selective. It was the complain of then UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake that only those underworld figures perceived to be supporters of the UNP, in the city, were targeted, while those in the government camp were left to flourish (notorious underworld figures like Wambotta and Julampitiye Amare were treated with kid gloves, the latter involved in a shooting at a JVP meeting held in a house in Hambantota which killed a participant).

Nay, what was witnessed in that era was not so much of underworld activity than the atrocities committed by the state apparatus led by the military. The killing of journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga, ruggerite Thajudeen, the disappearance of Pradeep Ekneligoda, the abduction of Keith Noyahr and the attack on Rivira Editor Upali Tennakoon was not the work of the underworld.

Perhaps this is why JO MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara said, the other day, that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa's chances of winning a presidential election was remote. When questioned by journalists as to why, he said the militaristic approach of Gotabhaya in dealing with matters mitigated against his chances of victory.

Be that as it may, the government should take serious note of the escalating activity of the underworld. It goes without saying that there is a nexus between the drug trade and the underworld. The killing of the cricketer's father, who is also a local politician, is not a good thing for the government. Like the JO MP contended, underworld killings are on the rise and mobs are becoming bolder.

There was much publicity given recently to a stepped up drive by the IGP to take on the underworld and in fact many notorious gangsters were netted in the countrywide operation. Yet hardly a day passes without TV showing some killing attributed to the underworld. These are mainly contract killings or tit for tat murders by members of rival underworld fiefdoms.

Law and Order Minister Ranjith Maddumabandara should take prompt action to bring this dangerous situation under control. Inquiries should be made if, indeed, there are local underworld leaders operating from abroad and steps taken to apprehend them. IGP Pujith Jayasundera should redouble efforts to track down all drug kingpins who operate private armies. The President and Prime Minister should take necessary steps to ensure that the police are properly equipped in their battle against the underworld before the problem reaches unmanageable proportions. 


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