Northern Youth Again In Danger?
- As free money flows in
By Camelia Nathaniel
Receiving money without providing anything in return, these unemployed youths now have begun to gather in small groups or gangs. In the recent past there were reported disputes and retaliatory fights between these gangs. According to some residents these gangs have now armed with knives. The residents believe it is only a matter of time before these gangs take up firearms.
According to Kumaru Sarvanandan, a Chavakachcheri Pradeshiya Sabha member, although the TNA is in power, they do nothing to resolve this issue because they want to prove to the government that without police powers and the implementation of the 13th Amendment they cannot do anything to resolve this issue. However he alleges that these gangs are mostly backed up by the TNA members. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Sarvanandan said, “After the war, it was the TNA that took the best advantage. They do not want to resolve these social issues as they are fueling these issues and manipulating them to increase their power. The government on the other hand is taking great efforts to improve the infrastructure and uplift the living standards of the people in the North. But all the efforts taken by the government is of no use since the northern society is facing great deterioration,” he said.
Past and present
When the LTTE was in control of the North, the people were scared as it was a very unforgiving and dictatorial regime where forgiveness was non existent and punishment for even the slightest crime was extreme. “Because of this the people were scared and parents always kept their young children hidden away for fear of the LTTE taking them away and forcing them to fight in the war. But after the war, the youth came out to the open. Unlike their fathers and elders, these young people do not like to work in the fields. Most of their relatives are overseas and they send them the money. With the flow of free money, these young people need not work hard to earn. The new situation has ended their desire to study and seek employments as their elders did in the past. Instead what these youth do now is hang around in gangs and watch Tamil and Hindi movies.”
Many of these youth idolise the characters of these movies of which violence is a key feature. Due to their ignorance or perhaps due to some other social factor, these youngsters enact these movie characters in real life. Many elders believe that this has led to form these youth gangs and also the rivalry and disputes between them which seem to be taking on a more violent nature.
Cultural values overlooked
Rape, robberies and killings are also on the rise in the war affected areas, and the people also feel that the police are inactive. There is also concern among the people that the senior police officers are unaware of the many ongoing issues, while a good number of the junior police personnel are said to be corrupt. The people blame them for being supportive of the perpetrators either for political or financial favours. Due to their alliances with these gangs or with those engaged in such activities, most of the incidents are said to be covered up. Hence it is of vital importance to address these issues to prevent them from escalating to a situation that could once again jeopardise national unity and security.
Recently a dispute between two rival factions in the north resulted in hacking one gang member to death in day light. When the injured person was taken to the hospital, another group had been waiting at the hospital with large Brazilian knives. Ignoring the police who were present at the hospital, this gang had hacked the man to death who brought the injured person to the hospital.
According to Sarvanandan these large sword like knives are imported from the Philippines. He said that most of these gangs are armed with these knives, swords and other weapons. “My biggest concern is that these same gangs could easily take up firearms that may have been hidden by the LTTE during the conflict. If such a situation arises, then it’s only a matter of time until once again we see an emergence of another Prabhakaran,” he warned.
He also stressed that the robberies have increased in the region and said that unless these social issues are addressed first, the government’s development efforts will be of no use to the people. “The TNA is also doing nothing to improve the society; instead they too are allowing these incidents and gangs to continue as TNA want to prove their point to the government that they need police powers to stop crimes. The influence of the Diaspora and other social media too plays a great role in accelerating these issues. The Police, Army or the Courts cannot stop these gangs and even arresting them is not the solution. They will be released in a few days and it only makes them worse. As I see, there should be a collective effort by the government, TNA and the law enforcement authorities to address this issue,” he said.
Fear, terror, helplessness and rage: the psychological costs of war are staggering, they affect soldiers and civilians alike. Those who were traumatised by chronic armed conflict may see that reconciliation is impossible.
While both governmental and nongovernmental organisations are focusing on rebuilding livelihoods and damaged structures, the very structure of our society and our values are overlooked.
Today, just like in many other parts of the country, the youth don’t seem to care about anything or anyone other than themselves.
According to Annesley Ratnasingham, a member of the Municipal Council of Kassel, Germany, for the past 14 years the whole Jaffna Tamil social culture has changed dramatically. Speaking to The Sunday Leader he said that before he left the north of Sri Lanka which he called home, after being here for many years, Jaffna was a place where a female could walk out at any time of the day. She would be treated with utmost respect and dignity. He said, however, today a father cannot take his daughter out without being targeted by these gangs even in broad daylight. The son of a well known public figure S.R. Rajasingham, Annesley, who now resides in Germany visits Sri Lanka every year and spends two months with his family in Jaffna.
He feels that the violence seen during the past three decades and also the influence of these movies that advocate gang violence have extremely affected the youth in the North. “These youth are no longer interested in studies and they all want to get rich overnight. This is one reason that they feel getting into these gangs and engaging in illegal activities for quick cash. This mentality and ideology motivates them to engage in illegal activities,” added Ratnasingham.
TNA turn a blind eye
He also blamed the TNA for not addressing the issues faced by these youth and accused them of using this situation to gain more power to their camp. “We cannot allow these politicians with petty ideologies to destroy our youth and the future of Sri Lanka.
This is a dangerous development and if we turn a blind eye and refuse to address this issue right now, we too would be responsible for creating another generation of terrorists. We cannot sacrifice the future of our youth. After all we strived so hard to bring about peace to create a better future for our children and give them a peaceful country to live in. Hence we should not allow another LTTE to emerge simply due to our negligence or petty political gains,” he added.
Describing an incident he faced while taking his daughter to Nallur, he said that there too he had been harassed by a group of young men. “Civilians live in fear of these gangs as they have become quite audacious. Once I took my daughter to Nallur and these gang members followed us passing remarks at my daughter which intimidated me.
I did not want to react or discipline them because if I did, perhaps they could have harmed both of us. This was never the situation back then where the youngsters were brought up to respect elders. We as Tamils from the North took great pride in our culture and family values. Mothers had the privilege of talking about their sons with great pride, but now the situation has changed completely. In the North those in power are only interested in blaming the government for all their woes and they do nothing to rectify the mistakes. The TNA is only making a big noise about all petty issues; they too are turning a blind eye on this youth problem and even supporting it to some extent for petty political gains.”
Ratnasingham further pointed out that the local newspapers give great prominence to petty issues, but none highlight the issues concerning the youth in the North and the impending dangers due to this gang culture.
Ratnasingham added that in order to address this emerging danger, all parties should work together against this scourge of the society. If the authorities did not address this situation, it could affect the whole country. It is a danger to our national security as well. I have written to the authorities but even the police are complaisant.
He suggested, however, that one way to address this issue would be to establish village committees comprising prominent and respected parties such as principals, teachers and government servants and address this issue with the assistance of the police. “In Sri Lanka one of the main obstacles to solving issues is the lack of dialog between the various parties. Therefore it is vital that all parties concerned sit down together and talk about the current situation and the remedial actions that could be taken to address this issue,” he said warning that unless we take action right away and stop these gangs from getting stronger, Sri Lanka, especially the north, could once again fall into the abyss of war and terror.