Arrest this trend | Daily News

Arrest this trend

The Lankan public forced to endure untold hardships as a result of the current economic crisis with rising living costs and chronic shortages of essentials, is now beset with another life threatening phenomenon - the phantom of death stalking our streets. During the last two weeks alone there were six killings in broad daylight by shooting, the common feature being that the assassins came on motorcycles and all slayings linked to rivalry connected to the narcotics business.

The latest such killing took place in Elakanda - a busy township in Hendala, Wattala in the presence of hundreds of bystanders. The chilling video footage captured on CCTV showed two men on a motorcycle wearing full-face helmets approaching the victim, who was leaving a gym. While the rider remained on the machine the pillion rider bearing a T56 gun emptied around a dozen rounds on the victim and was seen making a hasty dash to join the rider who kept the engine running. The crowd watched transfixed while the assassins made their getaway nonchalantly.

All killings prior to this bore an uncanny resemblance to the Elakanda incident. Regrettably, the Police have failed to, let alone apprehend, even identify the killers in all six incidents which indeed is an indictment on the country’s premier law enforcement agency. Suffice it to say that there could be more such incidents, given the frequency with which they have occurred almost in succession and with it the threat to the lives of innocent people who may in all likelihood be caught up in the crossfire in an all-out gun battle between rival gangs.

The authorities should take immediate steps to ban full-face helmets for motorcyclists. One recalls a similar ban being imposed during the 1988-89 uprising of the JVP when the assassins similarly rode with full face helmets to avoid identification. The Police too should take steps to preempt such killings by hunting down members of the narcotics underworld. Perhaps the economic woes of the people and Police attention being focused on maintaining order in fuel and LP Gas queues may have in all probability been seized on by the underworld to freely engage in turf wars.

IGP Chandana Wickremaratne should concentrate on deploying his personnel for the more immediate task of focusing on the law and order situation and arrest the rising trend of street killings. If not, things could descend into frightening proportions with a largely incensed public, now weighed down under economic hardships, also giving vent to their frustrations through violent means. Such signs are already evident in the long fuel and LP Gas queues where no regard and respect is shown to the khaki uniform where instances of Policemen being roughed up are frequent.

Much has been spoken of in connection with modifying and upgrading the Police Service, but from what is evident not much headway is being made. The IGP claimed that the failure on the part of the Police to quell the arson attacks on the homes of politicians on May 9 was a direct result of the politicization of the Police Service. In a telling indictment, the IGP alleged that over 90 per cent of the appointments of OICs to Police Stations were done at the behest of area politicians. This state of affairs was also reflected in the failure of the Police to prevent the attacks on the Galle Face protestors. Steps have been taken by new Law and Order Minister Tiran Alles to recall all such political appointments. But it appears the rot has set in too deep for an immediate transformation of the Police Service.

The entire Police Service is in need of transformation, with drastic changes in approaches towards solving crime. Indeed, crime has assumed an entirely new dimension with the narcotics element playing an integral part. The current spate of motorcycle killings is testimony to this. There was no such phenomenon in the past where the Police were called upon to deal with IRCs and tame hoodlums and thugs in their areas in comparison to the present day. The Police should be trained and equipped to meet the new challenges taking into account that crime has taken on international dimensions with the drug smuggling trade run by international cartels.

Our Police should be up to the task of meeting all these and also fresh challenges that may crop up in the future. Police officers should also be given a free hand and in no way be made to do the bidding of politicians. The Police are not entirely bereft of honest, fearless officers who would not brook any interference from politicians.

In the past there were upright and honest men who donned the khaki uniform who told politicians where to get off. Such men are not in short supply presently too. Their type should be encouraged and given all incentives to function independently. All measures should be taken by the new Minister to convert the Police Service to reflect its glory days when the khaki uniform evoked awe and respect and the men and women who donned it were treated with esteem and honour.


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