Indian drug smugglers, village youth gangs make Jaffna a crime-infested zone

A resident of Point Pedro, now living overseas, who was visiting his home town on holiday was approached by a local gang which demanded money so they could have a party with friends.

The resident complained to police who then arrested the suspects despite resistance from the villagers, some of whom stoned the law enforcers.

In another instance, a family who had celebrated a marriage in Punnaliakattuwan, Jaffna, was robbed last Friday when they were asleep. The burglars are said to have made off with 37 gold sovereigns and Rs 200,000.

These are a few of the criminal incidents which have increased recently along with sword attacks and gang fights between youth groups in the north.

Jaffna District Secretary N Vethanayahan conceded that crimes are rising.

“As of now we can’t say we have been able to bring down the crimes rate,” he told the Sunday Times. “We have been discussing the security situation of the district at the weekly district civil security meetings where we noticed that people have brought some key social and criminal issues in society to our notice.’’

But residents are fearful of informing the police. They fear reprisals from suspects if and when they are released by the police or the courts.

Following a directive issued by Jaffna High Court judge Manickavasagar Illancheliyan, no bail is given to suspects in narcotics cases involving smuggling of Kerala cannabis. The Northern Province has become a transshipment hub for the narcotic.

“I am aware of instances where citizens were not willing to go to the police due to consequences they may have to face. Most suspects arrested over minor criminal activities are released on bail after being brought to court. I think our legal loopholes should be rectified to curb the crime rate in the country as a whole,” S. Thavarasa, opposition leader of the Northern Provincial Council, who took part in the district civil security meeting told the Sunday Times.

Mr Thavarasa believes, however, that anti-social activities are only isolated incidents involving youth gangs without proper organisational structure to carry out similar activities in future.

Jaffna Senior Superintendent of Police, G.B. Stanislaus, rejected claims that the crime rate in the Jaffna district had increased significantly.

He said since he took over the post last year, the crime rate had declined almost entirely as most of the youths allegedly involved in crimes have been arrested and prosecuted.

“The people who committed those crimes are from the same area, not outsiders as claimed by some. There are many kinds of crimes related to caste issues, land disputes and gang fights reported to us. We have resolved almost 70 per cent of the cases in our police stations due to timely action,” he explained.

However, drug trafficking has been on the increase.

Early this month, the naval patrols deployed in northern waters seized 13.5 kilograms of heroin worth Rs 162 million in the possession of six Indians who were pretending to be poaching in Sri Lankan waters. They were handed over to the Kankesanthurai Police and later remanded.

According to the navy, since last year, 19 Indians have been arrested for smuggling drugs into Sri Lanka and 2,140 kilograms of Kerala ganja and 130 kilograms of drugs classified as cocaine and heroin have been seized during sea raids.

Kanagaratnam Subash, a lawyer at Mallakam courts of Jaffna alleged that police are not seriously tackling crimes in the north since they are also suspected to be involved in some anti-social activities.

He said villagers don’t trust the police.

“The public expects the police to carry out their duty in the public interest,’’ he said. As for the drug trade, the police go after the small fry while missing the whales, he said.

5 Alleged ‘Aava’ members arrested in JaffnaFollowing a tip-off, five youths alleged to be involved in recent sword attacks in Jaffna, were arrested while hiding in a house in Kaithady, Chavakachcheri, in the early hours of Friday, said Jaffna Division SSP G.B. Stanislaus.

SSP Stanislaus told the Sunday Times that this arrest came as part of their ongoing investigations to crack down on criminal activities by the self claimed “Aava, Channa” groups.

“All arrested are school leavers in their early 20s. Our preliminary investigations reveal they were part of the “Aava” group which carried out sword attacks on individuals for money. All were produced before courts and two of them were remanded,” he said.

According to SSP G.B. Stanislaus, two cases were filed over the incident in Chavakachcheri and two youths were remanded, while the other two were granted bail. A police search is under way to arrest another suspected member of the gang.

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