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Needed: A different war

It is heartening that a project has been launched to rehabilitate street children living in appalling conditions. Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thera yesterday spelt out measures to be adopted to deliver those unfortunate ones from their suffering. This noble cause deserves public support and State assistance.

IGP Jayantha Wickrameratna flanking Ven. Gunawansa at a media briefing yesterday viewed the rehabilitation of street children as an effective way of starving the underworld of recruitment in the future. One could not agree with him more!

More than one half of people in the Colombo City live in slums and shanties and some of their offspring end up in the underworld. The rehabilitation of marginalized children is therefore not only a meritorious deed but also a prerequisite for preventing them from falling prey to anti-social elements and ensuring social well-being.

Underpinning the IGP's statement at issue is the age-old bromide that prevention is better than cure. However, the police must not lose sight of the pressing need to take drastic action against the prevailing crime syndicates which have made this country unsafe for children and grown-ups alike. Terrorism has been defeated and the long arm of the law is now without an excuse for its failure to combat crime and raise the woefully low conviction rate which stands at four per cent.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently vowed to go for sharks and not sprats in the world of crime such as drug czars. Sadly, some of those big fish have found refuge in his government and become a protected species! A group of Police Narcotics Bureau sleuths, it may be recalled, had bloody noses and black eyes at the hands of a political brat, when they raided a club at a five star hotel in Colombo a few years ago. Needless to say that such political dregs have put paid to the government's grandiose programme to create a drug-free Sri Lanka.

There has been a surge in underworld activities of late, if media reports are any indication. In the aftermath of a war, usually the crime rate tends to soar in any society as trained combatants and lethal weapons find their way into the netherworld of drugs and crime. That some underworld elements aided and abetted terror strikes has now been established. The threat of surviving terrorists using the underworld as a medium to carry out attacks is looming on the horizon. Therefore, it behoves the government to crack down on the underworld without further delay.

The code name of the military onslaught that accounted for terrorist leaders last month was 'Ceaseless Tsunami'. Let there be a similar 'tsunami' against the underworld as well so that the law-abiding citizens' right to life will be protected.

The war may be over but the country is far from safe for innocent men, women and children as criminals are operating freely and unleashing terror with impunity thanks to their political connections and impotence of the police.

The IGP is to be highly commended for his kind intervention to help the hapless street children but he ought to remember that the onus is on him to make the streets safe for all our children.

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