Ahmed Najeeb was my friend. And on the 30th June he was murdered.
by Dr Hassan Saeed
So not just a newspaper report telling another tragic story of a senseless act of violence. But a life and person that I knew well, chatted with, laughed with and worked with-extinguished.
And this is what every murder or act of violence is for some mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister or friend. A life taken too soon and a personal tragedy made worse by its randomness and absolute wastefulness.
No wonder emotions run high at times like these. No wonder that we start to hear calls for retribution and ever more severe punishments for the perpetrators of such foul crimes.
But what are the responsibilities of the government? How can we ensure that our citizens are safe-and feel safe- in their homes and whilst they go about their daily lives?
I make no apology for expressing that phrase -‘we must be both tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.’ It’s one that those involved in politics across different continents have said, when they want to look at the root causes of senseless acts, whether it a terrorist activity, an American child gunning down other children at their school, or a single, but still painful, murder such as this.
So how should we be tough on crime and the criminals? The public wants criminals to be punished – and punished quickly. Perhaps one inadequate crumb of comfort in the tragic case of Ahmed Najeeb is that this seems to be happening. I have previously commented on the slowness of some judicial process, but in this case the criminal justice system has shown a high degree of cooperation. As a result we do not have to wait for weeks or months to see the culprits behind bars. Within 6 hours of police referral, the Prosecutor General filed the case in the court. And the court did not waste any time in commencing the hearing.
If the people are to have confidence in the ability of the state to protect them, then justice must be seen to be done.
And if the law seems to hinder this happening then they expect the lawmakers to change the law. They don’t want to see arguments about whether it is the police or the Prosecutor General or the Court that is responsible the incompetent release of a criminal. The public is pocketing bills for large salaries for these institutions and their members and they expect them to get their act together. There is no excuse for second rate performances – we must never forget that we are the servants and taxpayers are our paymasters
Criminal justice works best when all the relevant agencies cooperate and coordinate. When each stops passing the blame from one to the other. The buck should stop with all of us.
Of course punishing criminals is important. That is what our citizens demand. But this alone won’t do the job.
We should try and find out why crime is on the increase – in particular the violent ones.
The country is not short of professional studies and academic research into the causes of crime. Let’s dust them off and if necessary let’s undertake new studies. We can look at countries like Singapore where law enforcement has been exemplary. They even start working with children at school level who might be vulnerable to taking the first steps on the road to criminality. The Police are involved at this level too-they would much rather prevent crime in the first place than catch criminals after the event.
And then there is the issue of drugs. We all know a host of crimes follow from drugs. We know that drugs are the scourge of many of our young people and is probably the biggest source of anxiety of parents in the Maldives.
So far all our efforts in terms of rehabilitation have failed miserably. Severe punishment alone has clearly proved to be inadequate in addressing the issue. Again, we should also let our small country learn from best practice in other countries that have already spent money on research and developed effective drug rehabilitation interventions.
This has to be our top priority.
In conclusion, to tackle crime and criminality we need to make policies based on a real understanding of the issues and then allocate adequate resources. We cannot only be taking initiatives on the basis of what is left over in the budget.
Let’s make it an election issue. Let’s hear from aspiring political leaders how they intend to fix this problem.
It’s the least the victims of crime and their families deserve.
Note: Dr Hassan Saeed is currently the Special Advisor to President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik