Daily Mirror - Print Edition

Surge in shootings amidst intensified crackdown on crime

12 Feb 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  • Twelve persons killed since January
  • Recent weeks have seen multiple shootings in Colombo and Galle

By Darshana Sanjeewa Balasuriya

Amidst an intensified crackdown on crime and narcotics, Sri Lanka is witnessing a surge in shootings again despite a decrease in the first month of the launch of the ‘Yukthiya’ operation.
As the “Yukthiya” operation against organized crime gains momentum, concerns have mounted regarding the recent shooting incidents.

According to police reports, gun-related violence has surged recently, causing panic and chaos. According to Police Spokesman DIG Nihal Thalduwa, there have been at least 12 fatalities resulting from shootings between January and February 10 this year. Several others were injured in those shootings, while two shootings were reported without injuries during the period.
 The Sri Lanka Police and Public Security Ministry launched the “Yukthiya” operation in December 2023 to crack down on criminal and drug-related incidents.

  According to statistics, an 11 per cent reduction in crimes had been reported in the country during the first month after the launch of the ‘Yukthiya’ operation.
 However, recent weeks have seen several shootings in major cities like Colombo and Galle, resulting in casualties among alleged criminals and innocent bystanders.
 One notable incident was reported on January 22nd in Beliatta, where five individuals, including political party leader Saman Perera, were killed in a drive-by shooting believed to be linked to a criminal gang.

 In recent incidents, two people were shot dead separately in Galkanda, Negombo, and Sembukuliya in Mahakumbukkadawala on Saturday (10). In the first incident, a 60-year-old man was killed in Galkanda, Negombo, by two unidentified gunmen who fled the scene. The motive and identity of the victim remain unknown. The second incident occurred in Sembukuliya, Mahakumbukkadawala, which was believed to be a personal dispute.

 In addition, a Buddhist monk was shot dead inside a temple in the Malwathuhiripitiya area of Gampaha a few days ago. These incidents have sparked fear and unease among civilians, raising questions about the effectiveness and risks of the operation.

 Launched in response to a spate of violent incidents linked to organized crime and narcotics, police said the “Yukthiya” involves increased police presence, targeted raids, and arrests.
 Since December 17 last year, police have arrested nearly 60,000 suspects with illegal weapons and drugs. The operation marks its two-month milestone on February 17th, with authorities seizing drugs valued at over Rs. 7,733 million and confiscated property worth over Rs. 726 million.

 While the initiative aims to curb crime and restore public safety, critics remain wary of rising gun violence, potential abuse of power, and the lack of due process for suspects. Human rights groups advocate for independent oversight and adherence to legal procedures, stressing the importance of a balanced approach to tackling crime.
 However, acting IGP Deshabandu Tennakoon dismissed allegations that police were only targeting “small fry” in drug trafficking, emphasizing that both high-level and low-level traffickers had been apprehended during the operation.

 Police Spokesman DIG Nihal Thalduwa said that several suspects connected to recent shootings have been arrested and efforts to curb illegal firearms have been escalated.
 Thalduwa said that the police have initiated a programme offering cash rewards to individuals who provide information regarding illegal firearms and explosives.
 Highlighting the trend, the spokesman said that many recent shooting incidents stem from personal disputes.

 Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Tiran Alles, speaking at an event in Panadura on Saturday, acknowledged criticism of the operation but highlighted the support it has garnered from people within and outside the capital. He emphasized the apolitical nature of the operation, urging cooperation from all sectors to ensure its success.