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Link between P-TOMS and crime-containment

Our front page picture on Saturday of a huge haul of illegal firearms being crushed and destroyed by a steamroller at Independence Square, Colombo, is certain to have warmed the hearts of all lovers of peace and social stability. The event which was marked by this eye-catching public spectacle was International Day Against Illicit Firearms, which was held internationally on July 8.

A policeman keeps watch as heavy earth-moving equipment is used to destroy illegal weapons that had been seized by police and security forces in recent years. The authorities destroyed 35,382 ageing weapons, most of it unusable, while estimating that over 50,000 more illegal firearms were in the hands of private individuals. (AFP)

The yearning in the hearts of most advocates of social peace is that Friday's massive deactivation of illegal arms by the State authorities would have more than symbolic significance. Our wish is that the rounding-up and destroying of illegal arms would continue almost round-the-clock and that a huge dent would be made in the current problem of proliferating crime.

The substantial haul of illegal arms which was destroyed on Friday is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg in this context of the growing menace of illicit arms. The recurrence of such arms in the almost daily occurrence of crime in this country suggests the widespread though covert presence of such weapons. We, therefore, call on the law-and-order agencies to keep-up the pressure on the use of these weapons of crime. They and their users need to be constantly rounded-up and the latter brought to justice speedily.

We hope Colombo wouldn't be in the unenviable position of being "the crime capital of Asia." We say this because, on the face of it, we seem to be confronted with a multifaceted crisis, with a number of factors feeding on each other, on issues pertaining to social stability. A teenage murder has just rocked Lanka's upper social crusts and caused consternation among other social circles and as we write we learn that four persons linked to the tea trade have been brutally-gunned and dumped in a residential area of Colombo.

It needn't be said anew that the current crime wave is the symptom of a society in deep crisis. a senior police officer whom we interviewed in connection with International Day Against Illicit Firearms, said that Lankans are becoming increasingly temperamentally volatile. Frayed, quick tempers or the proneness to sudden provocation among Lankans is leading to murder and mayhem.

On a deeper analysis it could be found that it is vaulting ambition to be at the pinnacle of societal power coupled with thwarted hopes and ambitions which are rendering Lankans in increasing numbers, violence-prone and intolerant. These problems are compounded by the crisis of hard drug abuse among sections of the young and the easy-availability of illegal firearms.

These disturbing societal trends have grown against a general backdrop of prolonged war and crisis in ethnic relations. For far too long, some Lankans have come to believe that armed conflict and use of terror and violence are the most effective means of resolving disputes of any kind. This mindset has, of course, caught on even among sections of the young.

Therefore, the physical deactivation of illegal arms, though welcome, needs to be coupled with other measures if a degree of social stability is to be achieved. Paramount among these measures is the systematic resolution of the ethnic conflict by peaceful means, which President Kumaratunga has courageously taken on herself. We hope the P-TOMS agreement, for instance, would be implemented equitably, so that the foundation would be laid soon, for the resumption of he peace process.

Besides, the State needs to enlist the collaboration of the clergy of all religions, the academia and the assistance of civil society organisations, to address and remedy the emotional and spiritual stress of Lankans.



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