Monday, November 17, 2008

Urgent appeal to the police

Last night around 8.30 I was chatting to a friend on the street when we heard a group of people running round the corner and a woman screaming. There was a young people's hangout nearby and I thought some friends were having a good time. Then there was a distinct thumping sound and the screaming got horrible. My friend and I ran to the corner to see a boy, about 15 years of age, repeatedly hitting someone with what appeared to be a piece of wood. As we stood transfixed, trying to make sense of what was happening, the boy threw the stick and ran off to a waiting motorbike to ride off with his buddy. 

It looked like the boy had been hitting another boy and a woman had tried to intervene, earning a severe assault on herself. A crowd had gathered around them, including uniformed MTCC officials (the incident happened near the ferry station), but nobody appeared to have tried to stop the boy. By that time my friend had reached the spot he was furious, yelling at people for their inaction. 

The most striking thing about the incident, surely, was the audacity of the scrawny young boy for carrying out the attack in full view of more than a dozen people. How did he know that no one would act, and that he would get away with it? Was it a backup of friends lurking in the background that gave him the confidence?

Two weeks ago, someone I know was mugged outside an ATM. He told me that around ten boys had crept up on him and held him, beating him and emptying out his pockets. One of the boys had even tried to hit him on the head with an iron bar but was mercifully stopped by his friends in the nick of time. They stole my friend's phone and credit card and asked him for the code. When he refused to to give it to them, they produced box cutters and grazed him lightly, drawing blood. He mumbled an old code, which enabled him to escape.

It happened at night, but in a crowded street. However, because the gang had formed a wall around him, people passing by hadn't seen what was going on. Or, perhaps, they had chosen not to see.

Muggings and violence, especially in the streets of Male are now common place. Surely one of the highest priorities of the new government is to clean up the streets of Male and other urban centres. 

For a start, increased police presence in areas where gangs operate would help. The police should also issue urgent directives to the public on how to act upon experiencing or witnessing an attack. Unfortunately, Male is no longer the safe place it was and the sooner we acknowledge it the better.

It appears that most perpetrators of the recent spate of violence are adolescents, drug-addicts and disenfranchised youth, Gayoom's legacy now passed on to the new government. What to do with these young offenders should be one of the highest priorities of the government of Anni's "Other Maldives".

I lived for four years in a city of 250,000 in western Europe, which supposedly has higher levels of violence than the Maldives. But in all that time, there was only one murder and I don't remember ever being afraid to walk alone in its streets. 

I can't help comparing that city to Male, the number of murders in the past four years, and the rising violence. Apart from the highly-guarded political figures, I wonder if anyone is comfortable the city they've lived for so long. 

I did not sleep last night, because I thought I kept hearing a horrible thumping sound. But there was no screaming.


Anonymous said...

the voting age is 18 and above it should be reduced further. I think everyone who is deserving of voting does get his rights now.

Mr. Karma said...

A good post. Thank you.

This is a major issue in maldives, either people are just cowardly or they just don't give a shit as long as it's not them getting beaten. Do you remember the stabbing that took place on the campaign eve, a boy handing out promotional CD's of MDP near the shop "Items". 20 people dragged the boy off the motor bike and he was stabbed 7 times, including his head. He did not make it unfortunately, he passed away in Sri Lanka becuz blood had oozed inside his brain. While this attack took place, there were hundreds of DRP supporters watching at the Jagaha they were opening, there were traffic police there for the inauguration, all of them watched the "show"

Sad isn't it?