Combating crime, the govt. wayApril 24, 2012, 7:10 pm
It was like a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster. A heavy contingent of police personnel in combat gear, backed by the elite STF commandos, swooped on T20 Watte, a shanty area in Dematagoda in the wee hours of Saturday. Thirty three people including some lawbreakers on the run were arrested, we are told. The families of the suspects are still agitating against their arrest
Anti-crime operations must go on in spite of resistance from some quarters. Most underworld figures posing a grave danger to the public have families who shed tears when they get arrested or harmed. Soththi Upali, who was notorious for murder, rape, land grabs and extortion, it may be recalled, remained a caring husband and loving father to the last. When his rivals abducted and put him to a violent death in a Colombo suburb his near and dear ones wept for him, though his victims breathed a sigh of relief. Some criminals even have popular backing to win election. Kudu Lal, one of the biggest suppliers of heroin in Colombo, was elected to the CMC at a previous election. He had to flee the country with the help of a minister to avoid arrest.
The pressing need for crime busting operations cannot be overemphasised, given the sheer number of dangerous criminals at large. The city is awash with drugs and illegal firearms. Hiring a professional triggerman is said to be much easier than channelling a medical specialist at a private hospital! Desperate measures are therefore called for to deal with the nether world of crime and drugs. However, the police must be able to name the suspects arrested in raids and justify their action. As regards Saturday's pre-dawn operation, the police should allay doubts in the minds of ordinary people by releasing the names of the suspects with a description of each one's criminal past, if any.
The success of all anti-crime campaigns consists in the ability of the law enforcement authorities to operate without fear or favour. The much-maligned police are not without honest, efficient officers and men; they should be identified and given a free hand. They are equal to the task of ridding the country of organised crime if politicians allow them to do their job.
But, unfortunately, the government is selective in conducting its much-publicised operations against the underworld. It wants all criminals severely dealt with except those within its ranks. Ruling party thugs are a privileged lot and some of them were once seen operating alongside the riot police to disrupt an Opposition protest in full view of the public. When questioned by the media why the police had taken no action against those club wielding goons in Colombo, a khaki-clad imbecile given to licking political sandals had the chutzpah to claim that they may have been carrying sticks to ward off stray dogs. It was an instance of the unspeakable trying to defend the indefensible!
Minister of Economic Affairs Basil Rajapaksa has raised many an eyebrow by throwing his weight behind Mervyn Silva in spite of serious allegations against the latter levelled by a group of Pradeshiya Sabha members from his own party in Kelaniya. Minister Rajapaksa minced no words when he told the SLFPers of Kelaniya on Monday that they had no alternative but to work with Minister Silva, who, he said, only President Mahinda Rajapaksa could remove. He went on to speak very highly of Mervyn's performance at the last parliamentary election. (Even Kudu Lal polled an impressive number of preferential votes as an Independent candidate in Colombo!)
It is now clear that any undesirable is safe so long as he is in the good books of the ruling clan. If the anti-social elements in the other wattes in Colombo or elsewhere want to live free from fear of nightly raids and arrest, all they have do is to join the SLFP and curry favour with the powers that be.