The Sunday Leader

Of Burglars And Burglaries In Sri Lanka

The man of life upright Whose guiltless heart is free From all dishonest deeds Or thought of vanity
-Thomas Campion 1620 A Book of Airs
This column dedicated to the notion of making Sri Lanka the Wonder of Asia turns its spotlight today on another malaise affecting Sri Lankan society: the ever increasing occurrences of burglaries in Sri Lanka.
It was reported recently in the media that an organized gang of five young men were taken into custody for their involvement in several burglaries in the Sapugaskanda area and a large stock of electrical appliances, cameras and jewellery stolen by them was recovered by the Sapugaskanda police. Police recovered five digital cameras, a laptop, two gas cylinders, and a stock of cosmetics and jewellery that included gold chains, bangles, pendants and gold sovereigns. A senior police official said the suspects were between 17 to 25 years of age and regular users of ganja. Addiction to drugs appears to be the root cause of tempting the youth of our country to commit burglaries although it is not the only cause. A large number of persons convicted of burglaries in Sri Lanka are found to be deserters from the Sri Lankan armed forces. A senior police officer said that some of these burglars use gas canisters to release a gas into the bedrooms of the occupants, which results in the occupants falling asleep or become oblivious to what is happening around them. This enables the burglars to get about their business without the fear of the inmates being aroused from their deep slumber. Some burglars get the details of the layout of the interiors of residences by working as vehicle drivers and/or domestic servants. When employing persons supplied by agencies extra care has to be taken to check their correct residential addresses and insist on police reports to verify whether they had been involved in any criminal activities in the past. The authenticity of the reports issued by the police should be checked with the stations that issued such reports as many forgeries have been detected.
Although costly, it is advisable to install burglar alarm systems in residences as this may not only save property but lives too. When a burglar is identified by the inmates this invariably leads the burglar to commit murder in order to hide his identity, which recently occurred in the South, when a businessman recognized the burglars.
The data collected by the Police from all parts of the country indicate an increase in crimes known as ‘house breaking and theft.’ Senior Superintendent of Police Rienzie Perera speaking to the media explained that some young men who have found girl friends and do not have the money to take them out for a meal or a film would resort to this type of crime; in addition to armed gang robbers, armed deserters and drug addicts. It has been observed that when the police apprehend the culprits and produce the stolen money and jewellery in Court that only part of the stolen items are so produced. The strange disappearances of the balance items remain very often unexplained. Even if part of the money had been spent by the robbers, the lost jewellery should be produced unless evidence can be made available that some of it had been melted. In such an event the persons who accepted stolen property and dealt with such property should be charged. There was a case in which the house of a senior public servant was burgled and only part of the money and jewellery was recovered. When the court was to pass sentence, it was pleaded that the accused is a serving soldier and if he were imprisoned he would stand to forfeit his employment, with the result the culprit was warned and discharged with a suspended sentence.
When the writer was in Saudi Arabia, after purchasing some dresses to be brought home, the writer accidentally left his purse with Ten Thousand Riyals on the counter of the textile shop in Al Khobar. He realized his mistake when trying to pay for further purchases at another shop, and rushed back to the earlier shop and lo and behold the purse was where it was left as no one had dared to touch it lest his hand be cut off. This is due to the fear of the Sharia Law prevailing in that country.
It is time that our courts take a more serious view on the missing items from the lost property produced in Court by the police and pass more stringent punishment under the law for such crimes. If this is not done the rate of burglaries in our country will continue to escalate. There are also doubts about the honesty of the investigators into such crimes when items go missing without any hope of recovery. The senior police officers have to be vigilant about the activities of the investigating officers recovering stolen items without giving any plausible account for the missing items in order to safeguard the integrity of the police force.
Let me conclude in lighter vein as usual with a humourous anecdote.
A retired army general persuaded  his orderly to come and work for him as a valet. “Your duties will be exactly the same as they were in the army,” explained the general: ‘There is nothing to it. You will soon catch on again” The man accepted the job and on his first morning at work , at eight o’clock sharp, the ex-orderly entered the ex-general’s bedroom, pulled open the curtains and gently woke the general. He then strode to the other side of the bed, slapped his employer’s wife on the bottom and said, “Okay sweetheart, it’s back to the village for you.” (The Giant Book of Jokes at p.23-edited by Dave Phillips)

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