Strengthening law and order
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the aftermath of the
military victory over the LTTE, declared that his next war would
be against crime and lawlessness. He said this in the context
that he now has a clear field to deal with issues that were held
in abeyance as a result of the sole attention diverted to defeat
There are several issues which he can neglect no longer. The
growing crime rate in the country is one and perhaps the most
serious. That is why the President made a point of this in his
victory speech itself giving the impression that he means
Three decades of war, it will be agreed, has bred a culture
of impunity and the brutalization of society so much so murder
and violence has come to be taken in their stride by the public.
Very often, serious crime went unnoticed in the wake of the
more gruesome mass killings indulged in by the terrorists. In
short the public had become anaesthetized to violence and crimes
in the gun culture spawned by the war.
The war also gave a free hand to criminal elements to run
amok and allowed for a thriving drug industry and other vices
that were subsumed in the overarching presence of the terrorist
The free circulation of arms was another direct fall out of
the militarization process that provided the wherewithal for
criminal elements to thrive.
The general militarisation of society was also a reason for
the public indifference to law and order issues. Add to this the
diversion of the traditional role of the police in dealing with
local crimes towards that of combating terrorism also gave a
free hand to criminal elements to have a field day.
All peace-loving people will now hope that President
Rajapaksa would bring the three-decade-long gun culture in the
South to an end in the same way he silenced the guns in the
Hence, it is time now to refocus on restoring law and order
in the South that took back seat all these years during the
military campaign against terrorism.
As a first step, the police should now be directed to revert
to its traditional role as guardians of the law entrusted with
the task of combatting local crime. There is also an urgent need
to strengthen or overhaul the existing laws that deal with
serious crime so that the menace could be tackled more
It is this context that the views expressed by the Mahanayake
of the Asgiriya Chapter the Most Ven. Udugama Sri Buddharakkitha
Thera assumes importance. Delivering an Anusasana to the new
Chief Justice Asoka de Silva when the latter called on the two
Mahanayakes at the Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Ven. Thera stressed
on the need for introducing stringent laws to arrest the growing
crime trend in the country.
The Ven. Thera said “strong punitive action should be taken
against wrong doers to set an example for others and induce them
to be law-abiding citizens”.
That a member of the Maha sanga who generally takes a
moderate view concerning punitive action to offenders should
come out strongly in support of stringent laws to combat crime
is itself a reflection on the deteriorating trend. There have
been strong views in favour of adding more teeth to the existing
laws both among the legal fraternity and prominent citizens in
the recent past.
But as mentioned, with the Government’s preoccupation with
defeating terrorism these considerations failed to receive the
deserved attention. Now however, there can be no excuse for
going all out to tackle this menace, with normality returning to
the country and the de-escalation of the military scenario.
Like victims of the war, today there is a vast Army of
victims of crime in our midst who have not got justice due to
the ineffective laws in our statute books. The time has now come
to reverse this state of affairs. The appropriate climate has
now been created for the authorities to refocus their attention
towards this very grave situation.
It is the President’s desire to create a new Sri Lanka that
has just emerged from the ashes of war. This necessarily means a
law-abiding society free of fear and apprehensions.
They have now been given the opportunity to go about their
business freely without fearing for terrorist guns and bombs.
They similarly expect the same freedom from the criminals and
anti-social elements who prey on the innocent.
Now that the war is over, the law enforcement is in a
position to give its undivided attention to combat crime. This
should be reinforced in the minds of every single police
officer. They should be backed by new laws with additional
teeth. There should also not be any political interference in
the implementation of the law.
The Government should start on a new slate to deal with the
rising crime wave in the country by allowing unimpeded licence
to the law enforcement authorities. Nothing short of an all out
drive would suffice to eradicate the cancer of crime in our