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Tamil youth gangs sow fear in northern region
Published Date: 08/08/2018 (Wednesday)

 

By Sandaran Rubatheesan

On Monday, the Grama Niladhari of Vannarpannai east division J/100 was in his office for the usual weekly meeting with residents of the area when eight men armed with sharp weapons barged into his office.

The official was threatened at sword point, while his laptop, mobile and other office resources were smashed by the gang that came on motorbikes bearing false licence plates. As they left they also damaged vehicles parked outside his office.

A day before this incident, the same eight-member gang attacked a house a few hundred metres away from the Grama Niladhari’s office, damaging a van parked inside the house. The front windows of the house were damaged.

In another instance, a group that came in a car attacked two persons with swords in Mirusuvil, Jaffna on Thursday. Two people were hospitalised. These are some of the recent violent incidents involving gangs carrying swords, reported across the North.

This week alone, more than five such violent incidents involving armed gangs were reported in various parts of the North.

Locals in Jaffna question the efficiency of the police in controlling the violence.

They ask how a group of masked youths riding motorbikes with false licence plates can ride on a main road carrying sharp weapons in daylight to carry out attacks on targeted persons or places without being caught by police.

As of Friday, police arrested 11 suspects.

The Grama Niladharis’ union in Jaffna observed a token strike on Thursday boycotting field visits to area offices after handing over a report to regional Divisional Secretariat offices.

A union member told the Sunday Times on condition of anonymity that the attack on the office of the J/100 division Grama Niladhari was not a random attack as the police had claimed but a well planned one to intimidate the outspoken official.

This official said the violent gangs might have targeted the official since he was concerned about the security situation in his area and he had informed the police whenever gangs carrying sharp weapons were noticed in the area.

However, Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police of the Northern range, Roshan Fernando, does not agree that there is an increase in such violence.

“The civilian security situation in the North is not as bad as alleged by some. It is under control. We have taken many steps such as introducing motorbike patrols in selected areas and deploying more civilian police for community policing. Moreover, I would say these are not major criminal incidents but minor ones,” DIG Fernando said.

Following these incidents leave of all officers serving in Manipay, Kopay, Chunnakam and Jaffna police stations were cancelled this week. The police motorbike unit consisting of 10 was deployed for patrols.

DIG Fernando said the public should assist the police.

“They have to support us, we have carried out many awareness campaigns and introduced hotlines in each police station,” he said.

According to senior police officers involved in investigating criminal gangs in the region, most of the gangs are youths aged between 19 and 26. The violence could be related to clashes between gangs, personal disputes, silencing of informants, and attacks for money.

Meanwhile, a senior police official said three active violent gangs have been identified – Aava, Thanu Rock and Victor. More than 30 youths are believed to be members of these groups.

Many involved in criminal activities are those who are out on bail, police said.

“We are also very cautious when it comes to interrogating suspects arrested for alleged involvement with criminal gangs since we don’t want to be accused of torture in police custody. With top legal assistance, after brief detention, they are out on the streets again under strict bail conditions as revenge takers, and the violence continues,” a senior police official said.

The lack of Tamil-speaking police is also hampering policing.

There is a severe shortage of Tamil-speaking constables and sub-inspectors. Only 650 Tamil-speaking police personnel serve in the North. Tamil-speaking women are not willing to join the police fearing social consequences.

The Northen Province’s Senior Superintendent of Police, T Ganesanathan told the Sunday Times that as a province with a high number of unemployed graduates, many are not willing to join the police for reasons such as social status, prestige etc.

“This type of mindset should be changed, and the urgent shortage of Tamil-speaking staff in the police has to be addressed immediately. I hope the relevant authorities will look into this matter,” he sai

Source: The Sunday Times

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