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Needed: A probe not prejudgment Editorial-August 26, 2013, 12:00 pm

Saturday’s break-in at The Sunday Leader Associate Editor Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema’s house in Colombo has been rightly condemned by one and all. Five robbers armed with knives and a grenade held her and her family members incommunicado and robbed money and jewellery. The Police Spokesman lost no time in insisting that it was a burglary, but Abeywickrema has said that the armed men told her that they had been contracted to do what they did. This allegation must not go unprobed. The incident is, to use a Churchillian phrase, a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Thankfully, none of the victims were hurt and the intruders including two military deserters have got their just deserts. One of the gangsters perished in police shooting and others are in hospital. Four policemen who grappled with the armed men also suffered injuries. The police should be commended for their swift action which is rare. Now that they have the gang in their custody, they should be able to establish the latter’s real motive for the intrusion without making what may be termed as political statements, and allay doubts in the minds of the victims as well as others as to the veracity of the Police Spokesman’s claim. The Sunday Leader founder Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga died a violent death at the hands of an armed gang more than four years ago in a public place because of his journalism and, therefore, it is only natural that Abeywickrema and journalists’ associations believe Saturday’s incident was not just a robbery. The fact that the intruders took an inordinately long time to rob the jewellery and money has also been cited in support of Abeywickrema’s argument that valuables were not what they really wanted. It is a case of a dog being given a bad name where the government and the law enforcement authorities are concerned, though this time around prompt police action has yielded the desired results. Almost all investigations into attacks on journalists and media institutions have been shelved and the culprits have gone scot free. Living down this kind of bad reputation won’t be easy for the police and the government. The police argue that if harming Abeywickrema had been the intruders’ real intention, they could have done a quick job and fled without wasting time and getting caught in the process. Let sufficient proof be produced in support of this argument. It behoves the police to refrain from making prejudgment and conduct a thorough probe into the incident, with an open mind. Nothing could be ruled out at this stage.

Sri Lanka is sure to go the same way as Bolivia. which thinkers like John Locke et al have argued. They have already lynched several suspected robbers and rapists and the methods being used are savage. All signs are that unless urgent action is taken to neutralise powerful criminal gangs responsible for armed robberies. led to the emergence of the modern state with individuals surrendering some of their freedoms and submitting to the authority of the state. lynching must be a frightening proposition for them.‘Death Dolls’ In some parts of Bolivia. This is the very antithesis of the social contract. murders and rapes. said to be in doubt as dolls or scarecrows cannot give hardcore criminals jitters. Bolivians have begun to hang ‘death dolls’ (old clothes stuffed with rags) in public places as a warning to criminals on the prowl. as a report in today’s World View section points out. the report says. But. extortion. however. When people feel that their lives are in danger and the state is of no use they naturally adopt desperate measures to protect themselves regardless of the consequences of their action. The day may not be far off when ‘death dolls’ begin to appear in public places followed by the lynching of suspected criminals. Most parts of Latin America are said to be prone to mob violence because closely-knit communities feel unprotected by the police. The effectiveness of this method is. people have taken the law into their hands in a desperate bid to deal with criminals. One suspect has been burnt alive! This is the price a society has to pay for the collapse of the rule of law and the failure on the part of the state to protect its citizenry. .