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Editorial

 
 

Lucky criminals

Monday 18thJune, 2018



Prisons are hellholes only for the poor. Only the inmates without the wherewithal to grease the palms of those who matter in state pens languish behind bars. Their well-to-do counterparts with underworld and political connections find jails home away from home with corrupt prison officers being at their beck and call. We have reported some instances where wealthy drug barons, serving sentences, threw parties inside prisons with expensive spirits flowing. Prisons are awash with narcotics and mobile phones thanks to this unholy nexus.


We reported, on Saturday, that a drug dealer, arrested by the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) had revealed that his boss, Wele Suda, was running a drug cartel, from behind bars via a mobile phone. Our news item may not have surprised anyone. That powerful underworld figures run illegal operations, while serving prison terms, is only too well known. What is surprising is why no action has so far been taken to rid the prisons of corrupt officers.


It looks as if prisons had, over the years, become separate states of sorts. Prison officers have become a law unto themselves. Drugs and mobile phones are available inside jails and attempts by the police to conduct raids are resisted by inmates, who resort to violence. Bloody clashes often cause the police to steer clear of jails; corrupt guards and criminals have the last laugh.


The blame for the rise of the underworld to such a level as to undermine the writ of the state, for all practical purposes, should be apportioned to all political parties and their holier-than-thou leaders. Gonawala Sunil, Kalu Lucky and a host of other criminals rose above the law under the J. R. Jayewardene government, which even had the houses of Supreme Court judges stoned as the judiciary acted independently. Some servile high ranking police officers used to salute underworld kingpin, Soththi Upali, who was a strongman of the Premadasa government, which also had an army of goons to do political work (read attacking their opponents and disrupting Opposition protests). When that criminal visited some police stations in Colombo, OICs would spring to their feet and offer their seats to him. Contract killer Beddegana Sanjeewa was appointed a Sub Inspector and made a member of a VIP security division by the Chandrika Kumaratunga government. The Mahinda Rajapaksa government, too, coddled quite a few underworld figures such as Wambotta; they operated under a minister, who licked the boots of the former ruling family members. Some of the criminals who fled the country owing to turf wars, under the previous dispensation, returned after the 2015 regime change, which paved the way for the yahapalana rule. They settled old scores with their enemies in public during a UNP election campaign, in 2015, in Colombo.


It has now been revealed that no legal action can be taken against politicians for receiving bribes, in all but name, from those who have amassed ill-gotten wealth. MPs who have had no qualms about benefiting from the largesse of Perpetual Treasuries Pvt. Ltd and its subsidiaries tainted with the bond scams may not have refused funds from wealthy anti-social elements who are munificent on a princely scale when bribing lawmakers.


The conviction rate is as low as four percent. The police alone cannot be blamed for this situation. Political interference with the police and the judicial process also help criminals get away with their offences. There have been instance of samples of narcotics sent for testing being replaced with flour. Witnesses are wary of giving evidence against powerful underworld figures for fear of reprisals.


When criminals such as affluent drug barons happen to get caught, convicted and jailed, they are given VIP treatment in prison. Those who are sentenced to death continue to run their crime syndicates from their cells. No wonder the efficient law enforcement officers who make a genuine effort to neutralise the netherworld of crime and drugs get demoralised.


The officers in charge of prisons from where convicted criminals run their illegal operations via mobile phones must be severely dealt with. They deserve to be thrown behind bars in the exalted company of the convicts they have been helping.


 
 
 

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