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The Northern Province of Sri Lanka has been quite active in the past few weeks due to issues, ranging from politics, the federal system proposed by the Northern Provincial Council, and allegations against Opposition Leader, R. Sampanthan trying to enter a military camp forcibly.

While most of these aspects relate to the region’s political situation, there is another worrying factor which had been reported over the past few weeks, the increase in violent activities by small-armed gangs.

Armed gangs
The increase in violence resulted in five youths being arrested by the police in the peninsula. All the arrested were from a gang named’ Aavaa’ which had reportedly been involved in several underworld activities in the peninsula.

The leader of the gang, identified as Kumaresaratnam Vinothan (21) alias ‘Aavaa’, a resident of Inuvil was in fact taken into custody in January, 2014. However, the group had been operating in the district. According to reports, the suspects arrested last week were residents of Chunnakkam and Nallur.

The police have now arrested 13 suspects involved with the gang. They are reported to be from Achchuvely, Manipay, Chunnakam, and Kopay.

Arthur WamananHowever, the police have said that more members of the gang continue to be outside and are engaged in various crimes, including kidnappings and armed robberies.

The police have also taken into custody several items including motorcycles, hand grenades, swords, knuckle dusters and several other lethal weapons.

What is worrying is the fact that the suspects are between the 17 and 30 years of age, the prime of their lives.

Special programmes for youth
In the aftermath of the war, a crucial aspect of the rehabilitation and reconciliation processes was to ensure that the youth did not indulge in underworld activities that would once again create a tensed environment in the already affected Northern Province.

Immediately after the war, the Government, with the support of some non-governmental organizations, launched programmes for the youth.

The programmes included educational and vocational training. Government officials working in the area at the time pointed out that providing them with education and vocational training was essential so that their minds could be kept busy, and that they would not idle.

The idle mind
They said that chances of the youth taking up arms and weapons were high if they were kept idle. The argument is acceptable because of the past experience.

Thousands of lives of the youth were lost during the war, from both sides. It is therefore important for the government to ensure that the youth of today, especially in the formerly war-affected region, are provided with the much-needed education and job opportunities so that they would not idle.

It is easy for them to get back violence since they have been living with it for years. But, what is important is to understand that the situation has changed. The previous and the current governments have ensured that the situation does not go out of hand.

This month would see seven years since the war ended. There have been several scares and rumours of the LTTE regrouping. In fact, experts have constantly urged the government to keep an eye open because of the continuous presence of extremist elements in Sri Lanka and abroad.

However, the government has assured that it would not leave room for the formation of a terrorist group.

What is ironic is that these arrests were made soon after the government had given a period of amnesty in order to hand over illegal weapons.

Disarming these armed groups is equally important. They have been terrorizing residents in the Northern peninsula for several years. Every large group has had small beginnings and therefore, it is important that these small time groups are not taken lightly.

At the end of the day, those who are involved with such groups are young and have a lot to offer to the country. These minds should therefore be diverted to the correct path and not allowed to destroy themselves.

R. Sampanthan (1)