The recent spate of killings by members of the underworld has made the Government accept that the situation must be checked before it gets out of hand. This was confirmed by reports related to the recent Defence Council Meeting-chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena- during which there was a huge showing of concern regarding the ‘underworld raising its ugly head’.
Just last month Sri Lanka celebrated the ninth anniversary after the ruthless tiger rebels were crushed. That hard-earned peace has in recent times been shattered by incidents of shootings, rape, killings and looting. The perpetrators have been members of criminal gangs and what’s worrying is that they have links with politicians.
One of the much talked about recent incidents is the looting of a jewellery shop in Matara during which criminal Chamara Jayasundara was shot dead. The police later deployed seven squads to arrest suspects involved in criminal activities. Following some of the rounding up operations it was revealed that one of the suspects was the son of a mother, who had contested the last LG Polls representing a party supporting the Unity Government. These are links which can delay the law from taking its course.
Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said early this week that the Government was set to curb underworld activities with the assistance of the three forces. Given that large sums of money are being pumped into boosting national security the fervent plea of law abiding citizens of this country is for the Government to maintain law and order.
Amid this gloom there was some healthy news too. Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara was quoted in newspapers stating that the law enforcement officers had carried out a four-hour raid recently during which 2322 arrests were made. Out of the arrests 635 were related to criminal activities, 531 to peddling illicit drugs or alcohol, 78 to unruly behaviour and 5 to possessing weapons. What many opine is that the police should do these rounds on a random basis and not as a response to a rise in the crime rate.
The time when criminal activities started happening in an organised manner dates back to the era of Gonawala Sunil. Sunil, having affiliations with the UNP, was instrumental in the massacre of 53 inmates at the Welikada Prison in 1983. But during then too it seemed that these underworld characters were heavily backed by politicians. Sunil was put behind bars, but was released thanks to a presidential pardon extended to him by former President J.R. Jayewardene, just before the 1982 presidential elections. Sunil was even made an all-island JP.
We had our bad times with underworld criminals in the likes of Soththi Upali, Amarasinghe brothers Chanthika and Dhammika, Kaduwela Wasantha, Baddagane Sanjeewa, Moratu Saman, Karate Dhammika, Wambotta, Thel Bala, Nawala Nihal and most recently Wele Suda. All these underworld characters were made larger than life personalities by two sections of the society; the politicians and the press.
The media too have to take some responsibility in making unwanted heroes out of these shaky characters by sensationalising their stories. The rest of the damage is done to the society when politicians give these criminals membership in their political parties.
Politicians need these criminals to do their dirty work. Some of these criminals had fled the country defying arrest warrants because they had the backing of politicians. Some own luxury apartments here and residencies abroad. Even if they do get caught their stay at the prison is nothing short of being luxurious.
During the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime members of the underworld went into a shell. Most of them migrated abroad. But that menace was replaced by a white van culture which made things worse. Killings and abductions were carried out under state patronage. What the people of this country need now is for the law to be strong and the police to deal swiftly with criminals who breach the law. It’s time once again to protect innocent lives in this country!