Focus/Spotlight

War on crime

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The Ministry of Defence decided to recall firearms licences as part of a war on crime launched using the Police and the military.

Military Spokesman Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said that the Army was supporting the Police by providing information to control organised crime and narcotics in Sri Lanka.

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene told The Sunday Morning that his Ministry and the Police have strengthened measures to crackdown on crime.

“During a recent meeting held with Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundera, we decided that we should get tough on organised crime as well as on the narcotics issue in the country,” Minister Wijewardene said.

He explained that crime has been a serious issue over the past few years and that the Government hoped that the reinforced measures to crackdown on crime would result in a significant impact being made on organised crime in the country.

“I am hopeful that we can retaliate and reduce the number of incidents happening around the country, and control the amount of narcotics coming into Sri Lanka. Now the Police and the tri-forces are also involved, and therefore the Government will be able to improve the situation within this year.”

“We have also discussed the illegal firearms issue and are looking at licensed firearms. There is some concern that in the past, some individuals who obtained the licenses had sold those firearms. We will recall the licenses and will instruct them to handover any weapons in their custody. If they don’t have the licenses they will face legal action,” the State Minister said.

“The issue I think that is greater than the licensing of firearms is the availability of firearms just after the war. I think some political parties in the North were also keeping firearms during that time, and since the war is now over, they have sold those firearms which are now circulating in the black market, and criminal groups have got a hold of those weapon caches,” he noted.

Last week, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara said a special countrywide operation had been launched from 1 January to seize illegal firearms in Sri Lanka, and the operation was to be carried out over the next three months.

The programme was launched to curb crimes committed by underworld gangs using illegal firearms.

A special operation was also carried out around the country in 2018 to seize illegal weapons.

IGP Jayasundara also noted that since he resumed duties, the crime solving percentage of the Police had increased to 75% in 2018 from 60% in 2017.

According to him, the Police had arrested 90% of the suspects during 2018, which as he mentioned, was a favourable trend.

According to the statistics of the Department of Police, from 1 January, 2018 to 31 November, 2018, special operations resulted in the seizure of 1,064 firearms.

Alarmingly, there were 191 T56 assault rifles, one AK-47, 34 handguns, 34 Gal Katas, 632 Badina Thuwakku, and 93 uncategorised guns. In addition, the Police took 865 suspects into the custody in relation to the illegal firearms during the same period last year.

Recent shooting incidents

According to the Police, on 1 January this year, a shooting took place near the Thotupola junction in Kalutara North, and a 57-year-old victim was admitted to the Kalutara, Nagoda Hospital.

The shooting took place at around 10.35 a.m. The shooter had fled the incident after the shooting. The cause of the shooting is yet to be ascertained. The main suspect was arrested in Payagala.

On the same day, another individual was injured in a shooting that took place in the Jampettah 145th Watta in Kotahena, Colombo.

According to the Police Media Spokesperson SP Ruwan Gunasekara, the shooting was carried out by two motorcyclists.

A 37-year-old resident in the area, who was injured in the shooting, was admitted to the National Hospital. Police stated that the shooting was a result of a prolonged conflict between two opposing groups.

Another person died and three others sustained injuries last month in a shooting that took place close to the Henamulla Housing Complex in Grandpass.

The Police said that the mistress of the notorious criminal “Bloemendal Sanka” was arrested in connection to the shooting. The suspect was arrested at her house in Pamunugama.

However, SP Gunasekera told The Sunday Morning that the statistics of the total number of crimes that took place last year was yet to be issues by the Police Department, and within the course of the next three weeks the statistics would be available on the Police Department’s website.

According to police sources, it was revealed that there were a large number of military deserters who were identified as suspects in a large number of major crimes involving illicit firearms.