The underworld is rattled. Its leaders are going into hiding. Yesterday, we carried a picture of Anamalu Imtiaz killed and dumped in Colombo following his abduction last week. He was no ordinary criminal. Over one hundred trigger happy killers served under him with sophisticated firearms at their disposal. A few days before his abduction, Imtiaz and fifteen of his confederates armed with T-56 assault rifles, had stormed a mosque at Maligawatta and shot dead a rival and got away in broad daylight. Nobody dared utter a word against him for fear of reprisal. People had simply given up even mentioning his name. His gang has been responsible for many contract killings, drug trafficking and extortion in Colombo as well as elsewhere.
(Interestingly, some killers have funny noms de guerre. Anamalu is a kind of banana. In Borella, there is a thug who also has a banana epithet. He is called Kolikuttu Kapila. A notorious underworld figure who terrorised the South a few years ago was known by a vegetable Wambotta or brinjal.)
The nether world of crime is highly politicised. Not a single gang is devoid of political connections. Criminals reign supreme committing heinous crimes until they outlive their usefulness to their political masters or fall from grace like Gonawala Sunil, Beddegana Sanjeeva and Wambotta.
A steep rise in the crime rate is a phenomenon that usually follows the conclusion of a protracted conflagration. We are already burdened with over 30,000 small firearms in the wrong hands and thousands of battle hardened military deserters. Unless timely action is taken to crush the underworld before long, criminals may plunge the country into lawlessness. It has come to such a pass that extortionists are demanding money even from powerful politicians. We reported last week that a criminal gang had tried to extract protection money from a governor, a minister and a parliamentarian.
Meting out dark justice even to criminals cannot be endorsed as the forces that destroy them have the potential to be a far worse threat to a country characterised by a sickening culture of impunity. However, the public living in eternal fear of criminals on the prowl, no doubt, are relieved and naturally derive a perverse pleasure when violent anti-social elements are removed from their midst regardless of the methods used.
The killers of Anamalu Imtiaz are not yet known. But, no ordinary gang could have executed such a well planned operation. His killing smacks of an unofficial offensive by some State agencies against the underworld.
What is needed is not an occasional ad hoc foray into the underworld for a target killing but a sustained effort to wipe out all criminal gangs. Killing criminals here and there is not going to solve the problem of crime and drugs. An all out war is called for! Whereabouts of all criminals in this country are fairly well known and rounding them up must be child`s play for a government which bagged an elusive Prabhakaran in a relatively short time.