Trouble in Jaffna
Posted on July 23rd, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Disturbing news comes from the North. On Friday, a group of youth set upon a navy patrol who had taken into custody some suspects and a lorry for transporting sand illegally. The attackers took away the suspects and the vehicle, leaving several naval personnel injured. Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne rushed to the North to visit the victims. About a week back, police had opened fire on a truck, carrying sand when it ignored an order to stop. One person was killed and police came under a mob attack. On Saturday, an unidentified person shot two police personnel who were providing security to a senior judge, near the Nallur Kovil. One of the victims died.

One may argue that normalcy has returned to Jaffna in that an ever increasing crime rate is the new normal in this country. Prison and police personnel are gunned down. There have also been clashes between the military/police and civilians as evident from the incidents such as the Rathupaswala tragedy. It may, therefore, be argued that one should not expect the North and the East to be different from the rest of the country as regards the deterioration of the law and order situation. While this argument holds water to a considerable extent, the fact remains that, having beaten the cancer of terrorism, the country has to remain eternally vigilant and look out for any sign of the recurrence thereof if disaster is to be averted.

Police have, true to form, sought to obfuscate rather than clarify the Jaffna incident. They seem to have taken the public for a bunch of suckers. They lost no time in declaring that two suspects had been arrested, giving the impression that the men wanted for shooting the cops had been taken in. But, our inquiries revealed that the police had arrested two persons who happened to be at the scene of crime.

The fact that the judge concerned is hearing a high profile case led many people and a section of the media to believe that an attempt had been made on his life. But, the question is whether anyone who really wanted to harm the judicial officer would have waited to grab a weapon from a policeman to carry out an attack. A hit man would not have been so naïve as to shoot at police personnel instead of his target and flee without accomplishing his mission. One may recall how a group of professional hired guns followed High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya right up to his official residence before killing him and his security officer in 2004. There is reason to believe that the attacker involved in the Jaffna incident targeted police personnel though his motive is not known. That he was drunk, as police claim, does not lessen the severity of the incident.

Be that as it may, the assailant cannot be considered an ordinary person by any stretch of the imagination if his adeptness at handling firearms is anything to go by. He grabbed the police sergeant’s sidearm and fired more than a dozen rounds in next to no time without batting an eyelid. It is imperative that police trace the attacker and find out whether he has any links to the underworld or a terrorist outfit.

Not all seaquakes trigger killer tsunamis, but prudence requires that precautions be taken whenever they occur without anything being left to chance. Similarly, one should not rush to conclusions anent the Nallur incident. Investigations are still on. But, the need for the government, the military and the police to remain vigilant cannot be overemphasised. Most of all, politicians and their henchmen in khakis had better desist from advancing their political agendas or try to humour foreign dignitaries at the expense of the state intelligence officers.

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