Posted on November 2nd, 2016

By Dr. Tilak S Fernando

 Criminality is classified as violation of laws of a State. It means malfeasance, immorality and corruption and the tentacles of criminality have spread on a global scale. At present, to such an extent, that no single country is free of delinquencies. Law breaking is generally grouped into two segments – felonious and minor crimes. Exceptions to the rule are granted on the grounds of duress, insanity, intoxication and minor misdeeds. Punishment for all felonies may include imprisonment, probation, whipping and even the death penalty in certain societies.

In terms of criminality, prostitution is also regarded as illegal in many countries. However, prostitution in Sri Lanka has not become as severe an issue compared with the neighbouring South Asian countries. Yet, it operates as a lucrative and an undercover operation from the cream of the society to the lowest grades. After all, prostitution is regarded as the most ancient profession in the world!


The root causes of crime are mainly regarded as poverty, unemployment, racism, poor healthcare, mental illness and addiction. Child trafficking is also regarded as a problem connected with Sri Lanka, and India in particular. When human traffickers hound unfortunate children, the ‘victim- kids’ are taken unwillingly, treated inhumanely, held in captivity by force and used for the perpetrators’ financial gains, except in instances of their own perversion.

Lankan Experience

In the recent past, child trafficking in Sri Lanka was detected where elderly foreign white women, who visited the country as tourists and intermingled with poor families in the Southern part of Sri Lanka.

On the pretext of “getting to know how the other side of the world lives,” they initially shared accommodation free of charge with poor families. After befriending the parents, they craftily sought permission to “adopt young girls and boys,” to take to Western countries, making philanthropic approaches and finally exporting young kids to foreign lands. In many cases, such children were forcibly made sex slaves or pornographic ‘film actors’!

On the contrary, it has to be mentioned that among foreign child adopters, there have been genuine couples too, who adopted poor children with good intensions and given them a good future.

Every nation has its own rules and regulations to curb criminality to guide people towards good behaviour. More and more laws are created; societies too could become more complex with wider and compounded types of crimes.

Crime control

What is the most cost effective way to control crime? Several countries including USA and Europe have been convening conferences, as well as the World Congress on Criminology to be of service to humanity. It was held to brainstorm a mixture of eminent academicians, researchers, professionals and policy makers from all over the world, to find solutions to the eccentricity prevalent in today’s society.

The last World Conference focused on ‘Urbanization, Globalization, Development Criminology, Extremism, Terrorism and Warfare’, which all have an impact on society on mass violence. One thing concluded at the conference was that “long term prison terms are unacceptable and unattractive to offenders, but to achieve far more effective results was by making better education and job opportunities“.

In an American model, in the 1960s, crime rate was linked to poverty and racism where President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Society programmes were seen as dominant on crime. Later President Richard M. Nixon launched war on drugs, which resulted in an increase in the rate of imprisonment to unprecedented heights.

The European Agenda on Security in April 2015 set out to ensure effective EU response to terrorism and security threats in the European Union over a period of five years up to 2020. It highlighted areas of priority as ‘tackling terrorism, prevention of radicalization and disrupting organized crime including cybercrime.’ 

Frankly speaking, can rigid laws alone be the answer to change the conduct or the mindset of a criminal? Perhaps not, but laws might help to a certain extent to curb criminality. By the same token, how much could be expected out of the laws alone when the world society, as a whole, has changed three hundred and sixty degrees completely towards negativity and the human mindset too has become warped, twisted and corrugated with evil thoughts and deeds all the while?

Laws are essentially rules or codes on basic behaviour. Such directives written down by man in a statute book are only attempts to help all live together happily, like one family, as no society could exist without it! Therefore, the most important factor lies in executing such laws to the letter, rather than confining those to statute books only.


In Sri Lanka executions of criminals have not been done since 1976. Many critics attribute infestation of crime, from a hierarchical level descending down to the grass roots of society, is due to nothing but leniency in the law.

Sophisticated crimes

Personally speaking, there isn’t a single country on the global scene where so much of spiritual programmes are televised and broadcast like in Sri Lanka, from early hours of the day till late at night. From dawn to dusk there are Buddhist programmes, with so many Buddhist TV channels. Every Poya day some of the TV networks are full of religious programmes; each new day starts with Pirith chanting through the TV stations and radio waves; on Poya days people clad in white (for purity) throng temples exhibiting their pregnant celestial intensities and devotion.

Christians go to church and never miss Sunday Mass; Hindus go to their Kovils regularly to perform veneration to God Shiva and other deities on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some Hindu devotees become vegetarians on these two days of the week, Some Buddhists refrain from eating fish and meat only on Poya days, Islam devotees keep on praying to Allah five times a day, yet why on earth there is so much of criminality and hatred existent among the Sri Lankans?

Disobedience or lack of discipline certainly contributes to heinous crimes. It is evident from what is seen and heard on news about children getting murdered by their own parents, husbands slitting throats of their wives, mature married men with families getting caught up in rape cases of young girls and, at times killing the innocent victims and concealing the bodies in hide-outs. Where have the morals and ethics gone in this nation island, which was once known as Dharmadeepa (Buddhist Land)!

Apparently more sophisticated crimes are committed by the rich, powerful and elite of societies in the form of drug trafficking, money laundering, arms trafficking, and kidnapping of businessmen. ‘ White van syndrome’ was once linked to political crime in Sri Lanka, as much as religious violence and poaching of elephants, including wild life trafficking.

 Global scene

On the global scene, currently Islamic terrorism occupies headline news at present where a group (known as Wahhabis as opposed to Sufis) professes to justify their violent tactics by interpreting the Quran and Hadith to achieve their own motivations and goals to suit their needs in countries such as Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria, basically.

Cyber crime associated with computer hacking is another form of felony that is spear heading the world, which involves someone intruding into a computer via another computer to steal information. In email fraud, people get involved in scams in the form of sending messages to someone else’s contacts, after hacking an account.

In this scenario, e-mails go to all of the victim’s contacts, unknown to the person concerned, stating that he/she is stranded in a godforsaken country and lost the passport and wallet and left penniless, followed by a request to send money with the promise of reimbursing within three days once returned to base!

Some perpetrators are bold enough to reveal account numbers; local hotel names and even the room number and even through which agencies the money has to be sent. Unless one is familiar with such scams one could easily become a victim and send money in good faith to help one’s friends thinking they are really stranded! Sending spam mail (unwanted and irritating advertisements) to thousands of people through emails also forms a part of cyber crime.

Corruption and misconduct

Dishonesty and sleaze could be regarded as the worst form of crime common in every society today. In Sri Lanka it has turned into a major sin at every level, particularly common among politicians, who use most sophisticated techniques to conceal their identity but appear before the public as saints on earth! Yet, could they escape from the pricking of their own conscience?

Police crimes are minimal or at least most of those are concealed to avoid the bad reputation it can generate about the Police force. In any institution there is bound to be rotten eggs some of who have been exposed to the world on TV.

Petty crime

Petty crimes such as picking pockets in crowded places and snatching ladies handbags in broad daylight on the road (prevalent in countries like Nigeria) at traffic lights, when vehicles stop at red lights is committed either by the poor or drug addicts. Passport theft is a different ball game altogether where human traffickers want to make big bucks especially with UK and USA passports.

Taxi scam is another form of crime that affects a country’s image, especially when it happens to foreign tourists or even to a local who is not familiar with the area. In Sri Lanka, some crafty three wheeler drivers (Tuk Tuks), operating without metered taxis or even with such fixed meters, could take an unfamiliar customer in a merry-go -round tour with the sole idea of collecting more cash for the hire. Akin to the famous fable how the Portuguese were escorted to meet the Sri Lankan King on a long and circuitous route (Parangia Kotte giya wage), which indeed is a crime.

Security and stability are basic human needs, no less important than food and clothing. Without security and stability, a human being is not able to properly conduct his daily affairs. Through the establishment of a State and the formation of law “We sow an act and reap a habit: We sow a habit and reap a character: We sow a character and reap a destiny” – William Black (1893).

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