Life can no longer deal you many surprises after you have lived and worked in Sri Lanka, particularly in Colombo, suburbia, or some of our major townships for the last decade or so. Workers and residents have come to think of the nation as a huge abyss, in which is displayed the darkest corner of human behaviour; an urban thicket where not even the law of the real jungle applies.
It emerges with frightful intelligibility that the country has become a veritable playground for perpetrators of barbaric violence. The emerging gun culture has over the years become a flaming public issue. Now following a recent violent crime wave that has triggered widespread armed robberies, mob warfare, contract killings, ambushing prison vehicles, murder, abductions and gang rape the Government has decided to call in the troops.
That is because recent shuffles and reshuffles in the police establishment, underscore the certainty that the tactics employed against the surging crime wave have largely failed and that new strategies have to be employed. A good many of the top brass in our highly politicised police department have often been accused of pursuing their jobs in a half-hearted manner.
The distressing upsurge in crime that has engulfed our nation has sparked a call for a reorientation of the Police Department, which has been expanding over the years as a consequence of terrorism. The underworld of late, has been thumbing its schnozzle at the law while spreading its tentacles with the smug assurance of the Sicilian Mafiosi. In evidence, is a city permeated with gangsters, vice, drugs and all the carpet-bagging attachments that are basically the residual spawn following a raging secessionist war.
The once largely proud image of the police has taken one heck of a beating. In 2013 for the second time running within three years, Sri Lanka’s general public has ranked the police as the most corrupt institution in the country. What stands out with shocking clarity in recent times is the striking exactness in which the department has been forced to admit that collusion among some of its top-ranking personnel with the underworld has been a key contributory factor to the rapidly surging crime wave. Several earlier responses to such allegations had been confined to mostly denials and cover-ups.
Now all of a sudden we are being informed of a plethora of cases of cops going bad. Scores of the department’s officers including some of its top brass have been arrested for crimes ranging from contract murder, to bribery and drugs dealing. There was a time not too long ago when armed gangsters did not swagger around owning our streets. Gunfights and point-blank shootings did not break out in broad daylight in densely populated areas. We did not walk in fear watching the streets for stray bullets. Criminals did not have the temerity to haughtily thumb their snoots at even the lowest-ranking cop let alone assault or gun down any uniformed police officer in cold blood.
And while they continue to thrive, enriched by their drug dealing and protection money, the police seem indifferent if not complicit. And in the appraisal of most, they make the lawless workload of corrupt politicians and gang-lords appear an adventure in mutual creativity rather than making them sweat for their filthy lucre.
It is scarcely a secret that certain politicians and police personnel are working hand-in-glove with big-time criminal syndicates which appear hell-bent on driving legitimate small-time entrepreneurs out of business. Surely, a classic example of how organised crime is turning our marketplaces into bloody battlefields.
On the other hand, the emergence of recurrent political meddling in the law-enforcement process is another infernal aspect which has contributed liberally to the significant increase in crime and obstruction of justice and must be summarily dealt with. No one could dismiss the truism that in the recent past, politicization has provoked a rolling of many distinguished heads within the department, following insidious witch-hunts by succeeding governments. Clearly, there have remained a few tenacious survivors among the top echelon who have refused to cow to the demands of political pressure. But lamentably they are few.
Cynics might view the whole exercise in law-enforcement as self-serving and hypocritical, but what it mostly reflects is a sense that the cops are not being afforded the degree of respect that would usually be bestowed on a law-enforcement department by their political masters, the general public and the felons of the underworld.
What we are dealing with are paranoid, violent and uncontrollable desperados who must be given a taste of their own medicine. Now they have turned to crime, extortion and contract killings, the surest and easiest way for them to achieve riches beyond their imagination. Nothing like them will ever be encountered in our history of violent crime.
They are so murderous that the consequences of their actions could trigger a catastrophic flash-point where we will be pushed to the brink of criminal anarchy. Surely, the implications cannot be lost on the Government and the security apparatus that they must resolve a crisis which is critical to our peaceful national existence. These dangerous and emotionally unstable elements will have to be dealt with swiftly and decisively. Only then will innocent people throughout our nation feel safe from these treacherous attackers.