A resolute step by the President | Daily News


A resolute step by the President

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, no doubt, would receive the ringing endorsement of all law abiding citizens for the sentiments he has expressed on eliminating underworld crime. Addressing security and police top brass at the Presidential Secretariat, the President was unequivocal in pointing to the various lapses in the system that allowed underworld crime to thrive, particularly drug related crime masterminded from behind prison walls by drug barons serving sentences.

He pulled no punches in blaming certain shortcomings in the law enforcement in this regard. With justifiable indignation the President noted that despite high ranking police officers being entrusted with the custodial care of prisoners, criminal activity continued to be directed from prisons. He said he was determined to end the wave of underworld crime via the prisons and would spare no individual whatever his position, rank or political affiliations found aiding and abetting criminal elements, in his mission to end the menace of killings and drug related crime.

Citizens who are aware of the record of President Rajapaksa who, as Defence Secretary launched a crackdown on the underworld in Colombo would hardly doubt his commitment in this respect. Besides, President Rajapaksa today has all the top officers who helped him win the war, on his side, if he decides to enlist the services or expertise of the military to eradicate the underworld monster that has grown out of proportion.

True, there are top police officers whose dedication to fight the criminal underworld is well-known, who even risk their lives. But it is an open secret that certain men in khaki work hand in glove with drug lords and criminals, besmirching the image of the entire force. During the recent coronavirus curfew a police officer was found transporting drugs in his vehicle while a senior prison officer is currently under probe for assisting an underworld drug king pin run his business from his prison cell.

A newspaper yesterday reported an incident where a bribe of Rs.500,000 was being paid to some jailors to smuggle mobile phones into the cells of certain prisoners serving time on drug offences. In fact, the President during the discussion stressed that prisoners should not have access to mobile phones and SIM cards and that prison officials should make sure this is the case.

Over the years the media had carried reports of the goings in the dark underbelly of prison life where incarcerated drug barons and police officers/jailors figured prominently. It is this subterranean layer that has been found to be responsible for even contract killings outside prison walls (it is from a prison cell that the contract to kill High Court Judge Sarath Ambeptiya was given).

For a majority of those behind prison bars, with drug money to throw around, the prisons have become a home away from home. Even provincial level politicians are known to be in the pay of the drug lords. The revelations made by the notorious underworld drug king pin Makandure Madush on politicians, following his arrest, tell a tale.

Hence, the President’s assertion that he would not spare any politicians in his fight against the drug underworld is most welcome because most citizens feel it is their influence that permits the drug lords to operate with impunity and scant regard for the law.

There can be no half- hearted measures in the fight against big time crime. In this respect all arms of the law enforcement, including the Courts and the justice system should work in tandem. We say this because, while the Police may apprehend suspects and haul them before the Courts, more often than not, this is a futile exercise.

To cite an example, one of the suspects involved in the recent shooting at a hotel in Ratmalana was a prime suspect in the killing of cricketer Dananjaya De Silva’s father in 2018, but had since been released on bail to operate with impunity.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, it will be recalled, in his early days as President, earnestly pleaded with all concerned not to scuttle his actions to tackle crime and ensure the people’s welfare and well-being. This is the way to ensure the safety of the people’s lives from marauding criminals on the loose.

True, the courts are compelled to implement the laws as they stand and there are certain technical points and loopholes in the laws that let some rotten elements go scot free. Thus there is a dire need to drastically change the structures of our laws and bring them up to date with modern times and modern requirements, particularly to deal with the prevailing culture of impunity in the criminal underworld of this country.

Ideally, the new Sri Lanka we see, along with the other changes, post-Coronavirus, would also hopefully lead to a country free of crime, vice and drugs. Judging by his pragmatic and swift actions, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is certainly on the right track towards ushering in this cherished objective.

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