White Van Incarnate

Ceylon Today Editorial

Street Terror Incarnate

Terrorism has been a prevailing thorn in our side since our previous governments decided it should be – intentionally or unintentionally, depending on who you ask. But then more governments came to power that put fuel to the burning issue and eventually another government doused the fire, which by then had engulfed most of the country.

But it was far from over and it seemed as if we had traded a devil for something far worse – a false god, who wanted control beyond traditional boundaries.

This is when the terrorism on the street became a prominent aspect of our lives. The common man, who was once living in fear of falling victim to a political agenda, was now faced with a similar nightmare where the terror arose locally. The increasing crime rate, the kidnappings, murders and acts of organized crime, which, of course, took place with the blessing of the certain political figures, became an abhorred commonality in the public. White vans were feared and power was exploited. The corrupt slept peacefully, while the innocent lived in a never ending waking nightmare.

One would think, “Hey that time has passed now! We have a new government! Everything is hunky-dory, right?”

Well, it doesn’t seem so, if you actually take matters into consideration. Since the beginning of this year, there have been over 10 significant incidents that have been connected to organized crime in Sri Lanka – most events also reported casualties as well, which adds up to the severity of the matter. Most of these deaths are underworld organized crime related shoot-outs, kidnappings, abduction and torture causing the death of both criminals as well as the innocent bystander.

The most recent addition to this nefarious list is the report of a kidnapping that had taken place last Sunday. The abductee, a former private security officer of several parliamentarians, who turned a new leaf and became a locally prominent businessman, was abducted by several unidentified individuals who had used a white coloured van in the operation.

This report was enough to bring about another surge of white van related crimes into the public arena, straight from its origin back in the 2009s. White vans have become sort of a bogeyman-esque urban legend in the country with individuals expressing both amazement and well placed horror regarding the reported incidents.

Furthermore, the abductors being dressed in Police uniform garbs and for what purpose, is still being investigated. When it is the Police (or people dressed like the Police) are the ones who are committing a crime, who do the innocents turn for help?

The culture of white van abductions was something that originated in the post-conflict period, as we had mentioned before. White vans were synonymous for being hard to find due to their indistinctive features and the idea that is created in the minds of anyone who sees one – in most cases it is blank and featureless. This led the forces who operated the crimes to use this tactic often and was labelled as a clear cut strategy used by domestic terrorists or organized criminals for daylight abductions.

This feature has become a heirloom for criminals of all types – from organized mafiosos to the political criminals to the petty traditional thieves who had the brains to think of an intricate plan.

Psychologically, any crime related to white van abduction could be branded as an imitated crime – imitated because the white van aspect had been adopted from some other crime. But not all abductions have to be political in nature, not necessarily as far as we think. But it is a crime nevertheless and has to be stopped.

Organized crime has become street terror incarnate now – hence the headline to this editorial. And it’s not that crime itself or the rate of criminal activity has increased of late. It’s rather that crime reporting has increased – something the Sri Lanka Police has claimed on numerous occasions. Although it might just be a publicity stunt to save face, to a certain degree it remains true.  Crime rates have not gone up, rather it has stayed the same, unchanged and unchallenged.

Therefore, the solution is simple. Even a layman who had studied only up to the eighth grade in school would comprehend. What we need is a system that would be proactive towards crime and reactive, where it could stop crime before it is even thought of.

That of course, in all practicality requires an entirely different system that changes all aspects of the State – governing wise, education wise, economic wise, health wise and so on.

And such a system is borderline science fiction and is not close to reality, as we know. But the least we could do is follow the system without bending the laws to our needs until we come up with that messianic system for our utopian Sri Lanka.