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Remedial measures needed to curb lawlessness in Sri Lanka

Publication Date : 05-07-2013


The Sri Lankan government is in overdrive, trying to sell Sri Lanka as a world class tourist destination.

It is busy developing infrastructure and offering attractive incentives to prospective investors.

Luxury hotels are coming up along the littoral and tourist arrivals are on the increase.

However, if the government is to achieve the ambitious targets it has set for itself it has to prevent the country from sliding into lawlessness.
The latest British travel advisory should serve as an eye-opener to the ruling party politicians responsible for damaging the country’s image irreparably.

Britain has warned its citizens visiting Sri Lanka against credit card frauds, sexual abuse, theft, armed gangs responsible for targeted kidnappings and violence and dangerous driving among other things.
It has made special mention of the killing of a British national in Tangalle in 2011.

Although the war ended four years ago, the government has done precious little to restore the rule of law, which does not simply mean having a functional judiciary and a law enforcement force with punishment meted out to some lawbreakers after long-drawn-out trials.

True, it is a somewhat ambiguous term, but there are some universally accepted principles that underpin it; laws must be clear, well publicised, stable and applied evenly with fundamental rights including the security of persons and property protected; the process of enacting, administering and enforcing the laws must be fair, efficient and easily accessible to one and all; justice must be delivered without delay by competent, ethical and neutral independent judicial officers and all citizens including rulers and government officials must be accountable under the law.

The government is preening itself on its successful war on terror, and rightly so. It has decisively defeated terrorism much to the relief of the public who have expressed their gratitude in terms of votes for the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) at elections.

Therefore, neutralising armed gangs must be child’s play for such a strong government. Its reluctance to crack down on the underworld only lends credence to its critics’ argument that the much-dreaded criminal gangs have links to the government.

In fact, some notorious criminals are led by government politicians themselves who carry lethal weapons in public and commit crimes with the police looking the other way. Behind most violent crimes there are ruling party politicians and their goons.

The Christmas Day killing in 2011, in which a pradeshiya sabha (PS, or divisional council) chairman was allegedly involved is a case in point.

Another UPFA PS head has been sentenced to death over a murder in Kegalle. There have been several instances of violence against foreigners.

This is why we, in these columns, questioned the government’s wisdom when it decided to track tourists purportedly to prevent crimes some foreigners commit such as credit card frauds which are few and far between, and called for tracking the ruling party politicians instead.

The government will do well to take serious note of the United Kingdom’s latest warning to its citizens visiting this country which is being marketed as a tropical paradise.

Let our patriotic politicians be urged to refrain from tucking up their sarongs and hurling abuse at the British government for conspiring to ruin Sri Lanka’s tourism.

The travel advisory is factually correct and reasonably worded, we reckon.

What needs to be done urgently is to adopt remedial measures to improve the law and order situation. The time has come for the government to tie the violent elements within its ranks short, order a crackdown on the netherworld of drugs and crime and ensure that the police and the judiciary function without political interference.

Else, we will have to contend with far worse travel advisories which will not only threaten Sri Lanka’s tourism but also tarnish its image further as a criminals’ paradise.


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