Saturday, 15 November 2003  
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Checking the crime wave

Continued cold-blooded killings, sometimes in broad daylight, highlight the dramatic deterioration of the law and order situation in the country.

The persistence of the crime wave in these proportions has generated deep despair in the hearts of the populace although we do not see the situation as beyond remedy. Obviously, if the authorities fail to initiate firm, decisive action to curb this blight which has developed over the years, it would only continue to grow and wholly destroy our well-being.

Therefore, there is an urgent necessity to take stock of the situation and to ascertain how the present crime trend could be arrested. Although more and more sociological and criminological research needs to be done on this crisis which is also sapping the vital reserves of the country, it is obvious that the problem of crime has several obvious dimensions to it, which have not been adequately addressed over the years.

One of these is the compromising of their standing in the eyes of the public by some sections of the law enforcers. There is, for instance, the recurring phenomenon of the deaths of some detainees in police custody. The most recent horrific reminder of this continuing problem was the death of a detainee in the Nivithigala area. Prior to this incident, there were more than infrequent reports of the deaths of some detainees in police cells.

Such alarming developments tend to place a huge question mark on the integrity and even-handedness of the police, besides the raising of posers on the effectiveness of this vital institution of the State.

Unfortunately, there is also a tendency on the part of some sections of the public to take the law into their own hands when they perceive the law-enforcers as lacking in legitimacy, as was evident in Nivithigala, when large-scale violence was unleashed by some members of the public, apparently as a demonstration of protest.

Such lawlessness on the part of the public meets with our condemnation because it only compounds the crime crisis and undermines the institutions entrusted with the upkeep of the law. However, such dangerous distortions should prompt the police to remedy their deficiencies and enforce the law firmly. The inability to do this has helped in no small way in the growth of crime.

While the relentless politicization of public sector institutions has also helped in the proliferation of crime, with some police officials acting under the dictates of politicians, alleged links between some sections of the police and criminal elements have also aggravated the problem of crime in no small measure.

In addition to these factors, we also have the lingering burden of army deserters who have taken to crime as a way of life and the growing income and wealth inequalities, coupled with the cult of material success, which are fertilizing criminality as never before. The frequent, cold-blooded murders of businessmen, for instance, are the proof of the latter factors.

We, therefore, have on our hands a very complex problem with several dimensions to it. However, the way out of the impasse is for the authorities to act decisively against the crisis. As we have seen, not all factors are beyond their control.

We are certain that the firm, impartial enforcement of the law could improve the situation.

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