Recent incidents of violence in the North have resulted in concerns raised by governmental factions and also the general public, who have called for immediate address of issues faced by frustrated youth.
Opposition Leader of the Northern Provincial Council, S. Thavarajah said many youngsters were misled into unlawful activities through formation of groups and gangs.
Even though he said there was no total breakdown of law and order in the peninsula, a point on which Commander of the Security Forces Headquarters – Jaffna, Major General Dharshana Hettiarachchi concurred, violence was rampant in many parts of the region.
“It is a social issue. There are frequent clashes in the middle of the road among the youth which leads to tension and unrest,” he said.
The increase in alcohol and drug addiction has also been cited as a reason for this trend to be on the increase.
“The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) should take this seriously and ensure that the youth is provided education and job opportunities. Or else, the situation would take a turn to the worst,” he added.
Meanwhile, sources in the region said that youth frustration and alleged circulation of unlicensed weapons contributing factors to some of the incidents.
Sources said that many youth were frustrated due to lack of proper employment opportunities. Meanwhile, President of the Jaffna Bar Association, President’s Counsel Shantha Abhimanasingham cited youth frustration over the non-availability of ready employment, their anxiety over how to tend to the upkeep of their families, being quick-tempered and non-hesitation in getting involved in a fracas in public as further reasons which exacerbated the present law and order and security situation in the North.
Meanwhile, citing information provided by the Police, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) raised the alarm regarding the presence of various kinds of weapons, of illegal ownership, within the confines of the Jaffna peninsula, which were being used sans fear.
Concerns about the protection of the judiciary, victims and witnesses of crime arose once again following a recent attack on the judiciary (specifically on a High Court Judge handling a controversial trail-at-bar case), which resulted in the death of a Police officer attached to the said Judge’s security detail.
President of the BASL, Udaya Rohan De Silva further said that in crucial cases, protection should be provided to witnesses whether they request such or not. He however noted that such should be done extremely carefully as there was a propensity to misuse the provisions of the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act.
The victim or witness can request protection from the authorities including the Police or the Attorney General’s Department if appearing on behalf of the aggrieved party can seek protection for the latter.
According to De Silva, the Police had informed that various gangs and rival groups not on good terms with each other engaged in shootouts without concern for the outcome or repercussions. Those who possessed weapons included youth who had undergone training during the war and subsequently undergone rehabilitation, yet were walking around with weapons on their persons for use freely at the slightest instance, he pointed out.
The unofficial bar therefore called on the Police and the military to conduct regular roundups to collect such weapons including also the declaring of amnesty periods to surrender unlicensed firearms. Possessing such weapons without a valid license is an offence under the Firearms Ordinance and the Offensive Weapons Act and the Police can easily file cases in this regard, he noted, adding that punishment would carry a sentence of rigorous imprisonment.
“The private bar appeals to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to take immediate steps to protect and safeguard the judiciary. Sirisena has informed the Inspector General of Police to take measures to provide more security to the judiciary. A proper investigation must be done to find out as to what happened. The Police must be vigilant and look into these arms and take immediate action to bring those responsible to book,” De Silva added.
However, Major General Hettiarachchi explained that although there were in their assessment sudden, unpremeditated incidents which took place here and there, from time to time, the security situation in the North was completely normal.
“Most issues, around 90% are related to Police duties. Some blame the Police, others blame the civilians and still others blame the business folk. Regardless, in the present context, the military does not get involved unless we receive specific instructions from the Army Headquarters of situations where the Police are unable to handle,” he added.