British riots, a grim reminder
Britain's flaring riots last
week have shaken London to the core. The riots, which erupted in London
spread like wildfire to other cities in the United Kingdom and seemed
unstoppable at one stage as their law enforcement agencies battled
desperately to control the unprecedented wave of riots that reached
alarming proportions in next to no time.
Within 72 hours, violence and looting took its toll and spread to
three other major cities, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool. The London
riots came hot on the heels of a bomb blast and a killing spree which
stunned the Norwegian capital Oslo.
Be it crime or any other acts of terror, Sri Lanka condemns in the
strongest possible terms the unfortunate incidents in Oslo, London and
Mumbai recently. These attacks reiterate the need for global unity
against crime and terror, irrespective of which part of the world it
It was only last month that three bomb blasts rocked India's largest
city, Mumbai, killing at least 21 people and injuring over 110 people.
The bombings revived dreadful memories in a city that has suffered
before, including the massive assault by gunmen that killed 164 people
in November 2008.
The 2011 Oslo bombing and Utoeya shooting were two sequential terror
attacks against the government, the civilian population and a summer
camp in Norway last July. The car bomb explosion in Oslo killed eight
people while the second attack at a summer camp in Utoeya claimed the
lives of 69 people.
The International Community, at least, at this late stage, must
abandon its queer habit of viewing criminal and terror acts in various
parts of the world from different angles. The widespread anti-social and
criminal behaviour of youth and unemployed people in general has long
troubled Britain. Attacks and vandalism by gangs of rabble-rousers are
"a blight on the lives of millions," according to a 2010 British
government report commissioned in the aftermath of several deaths
related to such gangs.
The riots also bring into sharp focus the alienation and resentment
of many young people in Britain, where almost one million people between
16 and 24 are officially unemployed, the highest on record since the
deep recession of the mid-1980s. The New York Times, in its banner
headline, said that the "London riots put the spotlight on troubled,
unemployed youth in Britain".
The riots sparked off when protesters gathered outside a north London
police station following the shooting of a local man by law enforcement
officers. The British police have long had troubled relations with
racial and ethnic minorities in the UK. According to Graham Beech, an
official at the crime-prevention charity Nacro, UK, the combination of
economic despair, racial tension and thuggery has "a devastating effect
on communities". It is something that people generally see on their
daily walks to work - street drunkenness, vandalism and intimidation.
In this context we re-echo President Mahinda Rajapaksa's forthright
comments in his inspiring speech at the UN General Assembly three years
ago; in that there can't be two types of terrorism - one for the West
and another for this part of the world. There are no good and bad
terrorists. Terrorism anywhere in the world is terrorism and should be
Although the US Assistant Secretary of State, Robert O'Blake on his
last visit to Sri Lanka last May, said that Velupillai Prabhakaran and
Osama bin Laden were two of the world's most ruthless terrorists, most
countries in the West consider these killings from different viewpoints.
Sri Lanka does not view terrorism in the US or UK from a different
perspective. More than any other country, Sri Lanka had suffered untold
misery for nearly three decades due to the LTTE's barbaric terror acts.
Similarly, the West too, at least after the recent ghastly incidents
should cease to view Sri Lanka in a different light. Certain countries
in the West which pontificate to us on peace and view terrorism in
keeping with their own agendas, should at least now withdraw their war
crimes charges against Sri Lanka.
As Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has quite rightly
highlighted, the violence and looting raging across London was evidence
of how a small group of unruly elements could exploit an isolated
incident to cause mayhem. Depending on their success, hundreds if not
thousands, could throw their weight behind a destructive campaign.
Similarly, the recent JVP-led protests at the Katunayake Export
Processing Zone (KEPZ) could have definitely developed into a
frightening situation and blown out of proportion, had the Government
failed to take swift remedial action, though the police initially failed
in their task, resulting in an unfortunate death.
Some Western diplomats here raised a big hue and cry over the
incidents at the KEPZ. A Western diplomat in Colombo even went to the
extent of trying to berate Sri Lanka over the incident. But strangely
enough his silence was deafening after the severe riots in Britain.
The violence in Britain first erupted last weekend in Tottenham in
north London, when outraged protesters demonstrated against the fatal
police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four who was
gunned down in disputed circumstances. According to British press
reports, the police from Operation Trident, assigned to investigate gun
crime in the black community, stopped the cab he was riding in and shot
As Defence Secretary Rajapaksa had pointed out at the recent press
interview, those who are critical of the police here over the manner in
which they tackle violent groups, should compare how the so-called
five-star democracy works in the West.
Those who preach to us on human rights violations, the rights of
minorities and rehabilitation of terrorists, must practise what they
preach. Would those who shed crocodile tears over the terrorists killed
in battle in Sri Lanka, treat the minority groups in their countries
better than Sri Lanka? The answer would be an emphatic No!
Now that over 1000 have been detained for their alleged involvement
in the riots in the UK, it would be interesting to see how the UK
handles the post-conflict situation. It is our fervent hope and wish
that the British government would take timely action to ensure the
safety and security of the minorities living in London and other major
cities. Simultaneously, those who are responsible for damaging public
and private property should be brought to book.
Those who encourage civil unrest in other parts of the world, and
adopt a Jekyll and Hyde attitude should realise the folly of their
strategy. It goes without saying that those who foster terrorism either
directly or indirectly will have to face the dire consequences of their
actions sooner rather than later.