Are Politicians Committing More Crimes, Or Are There More Politicians?

Politicians On The Rampage

An old infographic from the Daily Mirror.


I’ve been trying to figure it out. Recently more and more politicians have been accused of crimes ranging from murder to rape to, well, combinations of the above. Now the Deputy Mayor of Moratuwa has been arrested in connection to the killing of a monk (which seems complicated, the main suspects also being dead). My question is, are politicians getting more criminal, or are there just more politicians?

The main effect of various devolution moves has been to increase the amount of elected officials in Sri Lanka without actually devolving power that much to the people. Hence you get a lot of provincial councillors and the like who resemble capos and soldiers in a mafia family more than they resemble elected officials. Sri Lanka (like India I suppose) lacks any idea of a political scandal so no sex, rape or murder can really derail a politician that much. The only thing that ruins them is disloyalty or perhaps not being criminal enough.

At the same time, however, there are still a lot of good local officials doing good work, as much as they can. What’s not clear, however, is the proportion. What we do hear about is politicians in trouble, and the broad impression is that they really can get away with murder. Minister Mervyn Silva went from various assaults on the media and innocents to becoming Minister Of Public Relations, which shows Mahinda Rajapaksas stance on the issue. On the local level, the main suspect in the brutal murder of a British national in Tangalle is out on bail with no sign of a trial.

What I think we’re getting is both – there are more politicians and they are committing more crimes. With seeming impunity. Being elected these days seems more like getting made than making a difference.

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23 Comments »

Gungan
2013-02-05 18:42:25

There aren’t any more politicians now than say when Chandrika was in power. We had the same number in parliament and same provincial councils, etc. (except half the parliament are ministers now. That’s a separate discussion)

The difference is the prevailing culture of impunity. If you are connected to the ruling family, you can/will get away with murder!

 
shammi
2013-02-05 20:29:01

The main reason this goes on unabated is the way MR turns a blind eye and how he purposely weakens the systems meant to cope with it.

 
2013-02-06 09:01:12

Recent incidents are fresh in our minds, while we don’t remember stuff that happened years ago that well. So even if the crime rate remained constant, it would still appear to be increasing.

So, what statistical evidence do we have that the rate of crimes committed by politicians have been increasing over, say, the last thirty years?

 
2013-02-06 09:10:48

Recent incidents are fresh in our memory, while stuff that happened years ago are not. So even if the rate of crimes committed by politicians remained the same, it would still appear as if it is increasing.

So, is there any statistical evidence that the rate of crimes committed by politicians has been increasing, say, over the last thirty years?

 
2013-02-06 11:42:13

Sharanga’s question is interesting, the statistics, if someone has collated them, would tell an interesting story.

For me, there is plenty of evidence that a culture of impunity prevails – there are plenty of high profile examples. When impunity prevails crime will definitely be up so I would say that the crime rate by politicians and their cronies has definitely increased although I do not know by how much.

 
2013-02-06 14:52:25

I weren’t able to find any data about the rate of crimes committed by politicians over the years. But the following graph is interesting. Of course it is only about convicted prisoners, so the data is evidence about our legal system as it is about anything else. Also, it only covers years from 2005 onward.

http://www.prisons.gov.lk/Statistics/Statics/Title4/4.12.pdf

What I find interesting is that the number of murder convictions haven’t gone up over the years. Rape cases have a complicated pattern. They’re not steadily increasing, though they have increased compared to 2005. What has seriously gone up among A grade crimes is “Unlawful intercourse and attempt”. What’s the difference between that and rape?

 
 
shammi
2013-02-06 16:46:06

As usual Sharanga your statistics are incomplete and the conclusions flawed, just like when you championed the death sentence, knowing or not knowing the state of our justice sytem. When a culture of impunity prevails fewer cases will be tried successfully, hence fewer convictions. A better measurement would be the number of cases reported, while making allowances for the fact that more people would come forward to report cases now, than before. Aparaadeh, your effort.
The horror story I heard today was that the 14 year old victim of that distressing gang rape incident in Akuressa, had committed suicide by taking poison. The main accused, PS chairman of Akuressa, is out on bail. Must be scintillating news for him, unless it wasn’t news at all, like if the suicide was staged. If this man and his accomplices go free for lack of eveidence, the case wouldn’t make it your chart, would it?

 
2013-02-06 19:12:33

This got to be one of the most moronic arguments ever. It’s also called the god-in-the-gaps argument. Your argument is, since my data is imperfect, that means you can believe your preferred hypothesis without a shred of evidence.

I didn’t present conclusive evidence for or against any hypothesis. But I did present some sort of evidence, based on which you are supposed to update on your prior probabilities for different hypotheses. I’m explaing Bayes Theorem without math. Jeez.

Now if your problem is people getting convicted, here’s data about unconvicted people incarcerated.

http://www.prisons.gov.lk/Statistics/Statics/Title3/3.1.pdf

It’s not the number of cases reported, which is the data that you want. But it’s evidence for or against different hypotheses, and you are supposed to update your probabilities based on that. The one thing a rational person cannot do is not updating.

 
shammi
2013-02-06 21:12:01

Haiyo!

I didn’t put forward a single hypothesis, Sharanga. I merely pointed out how irrelevant your data was in testing the hypothesis, when a state of impunity prevails. In the case of crimes commited by politicians, the data will be further compromised due to the influence politicians have over cops investigating cases. So, it doesn’t surprise me that your chart shows a drop in the number of cases of rape and unlawful intercourse (whatever that is; statutory rape?) in 2011 compared to the previous year, when the common perception is quite different.

Why dont you check out the convictions to arrests, or convictions to cases reported ratios? That might teach you something about how to apply your precious theorems.

As for your list of arrests without cases being heard, it simply has no relevance here, it’s merely a reflection on the deficiencies in the judicial system, and how poverty contributes to inequality.

(Please disregard the semicolon in that first paragraph there, it was inserted in honour of Himal, in case he takes a peek here, and need not concern anyone else)

 
2013-02-07 14:54:04

Not to get too technical on you, but whatever idea you have about crime rates is not a perception. It’s a belief. You can’t perceive things like crime rates, utility functions, laws of gravitation etc. Both beliefs and perceptions can be wrong, for different reasons.

You are putting forward a hypothesis. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, I don’t know. Indi’s article did put forth a hypothesis, and you seconded it when you wrote “The main reason this goes on unabated is the way MR turns a blind eye and how he purposely weakens the systems meant to cope with it”, and in the comments that followed. The idea was that the rate of crimes committed by politicians are going up. Now in the absence of direct evidence for or against it, we rely on indirect ones. If this hypothesis is true, we might expect the crime rate in general has gone up, since politicians are part of society too, and they reflect current trends in the society in general. So we expect to see an increase in the number of people (or percentage) arrested over the years. It turns out this is not the case. Now of course it is very much possible that this is due to the inefficiencies and corruptions in our justice system, and that crime rate has really gone up. That’s one hypothesis. But that evidence is more easily explained by the hypothesis that the crime rate has not really gone up. So you give more probability to that that to the earlier one. So if that is the case, you should reduce you confidence in the politicians hypothesis too, politicians too are part of the society. They are the ones who sometimes give orders to underworld ayyas.

Again, I’m not saying that politicians don’t commit crimes at a higher rate. I’m explaining how you analyse incomplete evidence.

 
2013-02-07 14:54:56

Not to get too technical on you, but whatever idea you have about crime rates is not a perception. It’s a belief. You can’t perceive things like crime rates, utility functions, laws of gravitation etc. Both beliefs and perceptions can be wrong, for different reasons.

You are putting forward a hypothesis. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, I don’t know. Indi’s article did put forth a hypothesis, and you seconded it when you wrote “The main reason this goes on unabated is the way MR turns a blind eye and how he purposely weakens the systems meant to cope with it”, and in the comments that followed. The idea was that the rate of crimes committed by politicians are going up. Now in the absence of direct evidence for or against it, we rely on indirect ones. If this hypothesis is true, we might expect the crime rate in general has gone up, since politicians are part of society too, and they reflect current trends in the society in general. So we expect to see an increase in the number of people (or percentage) arrested over the years. It turns out this is not the case. Now of course it is very much possible that this is due to the inefficiencies and corruptions in our justice system, and that crime rate has really gone up. That’s one hypothesis. But that evidence is more easily explained by the hypothesis that the crime rate has not really gone up. So you give more probability to that that to the earlier one. So if that is the case, you should reduce you confidence in the politicians hypothesis too, politicians too are part of the society. They are the ones who sometimes give orders to underworld ayyas.

Again, I’m not saying that politicians don’t commit crimes at a higher rate. I’m explaining how you analyse incomplete evidence.

 
shammi
2013-02-07 21:33:52

Sharanga, it was I who asked you to take the number of ARRESTS. Better still would be the number of cases reported using not one but several different sources.
You said you used the number of convictions, which I said would be misleading, especially in the case of politicians, who are a priviledged lot here. Is that too difficult for you to understand?
As for my perceptions, let me give you a verifiable fact. Go and have a look at the Government Analyst’s office. Have a look at how safely they keep all the valuable bits of evidence. I hear the storage facilities are in deplorable condition. Just one of the numerous little factors you have to take in to account when updating your all important probabilities. Am I being too technical for you?

2013-02-08 10:05:12

You’re simply privileging your hypothesis. You don’t have one bit of evidence to support your claims. You still hold on to it with religious fury.

I initially used the number of convictions, which was the first bit of relevant data I got on the internet. Now if the data is reliable (I think it is), you cannot ignore it no matter how much other evidence you lack. You need to take every bit of relevant information available to you when you’re updating your probabilities. They of course have different weights. But none of them is weightless.

Now if you’re interested, here’s more info:
http://www.prisons.gov.lk/Statistics/statistic.html

You cannot insist on one bit of evidence, and believe whatever you want to believe as long as it is not available. Evolution deniers want to see monkeys evolve into humans on videotape.

Now, in any case, I was able to find Reported Crime numbers from 2005 onward as well, which is your preferred evidence. Pay attention only to the blue line.
http://srilankapolicestatistics.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/graph2.png

I don’t know how reliable those data are. But the guy links to this site, where lot of info is available:
http://www.police.lk/index.php/crime-trends

 
 
shammi
2013-02-08 11:31:14

Good. You have done a little more homework, but nowhere near enough.

The number of convictions is not a good measurement to test the hypothesis regarding crimes committed by politicians in Sri Lanka. Do you agree? If not, what relevance would those numbers have in your opinion? I say close to none. Hardly any get convicted, unless you were in the opposition, perhaps.

According to the SL Police statistics you have provided, the reported crimes between 2007 and 2011 have hardly changed, hovering around 57000. This number doesn’t take in to account the instances where the cops refused to entertain complaints against their political masters, and we know this is quite common, though of course, you would ask me for proof. Even otherwise, the crimes commited by politicians will be camouflaged in the number of total crimes. So the data is useless.

However some other interesting facts came to light. In all those years, the accused is unknown in about 25% of the cases, investigations are pending on around 65% in each year, and each year the convictions are only about 5%. I dont know how that compares with other countries in the world, or whether the police chief has doctored the stats.

My ideal source of information for a survey on crimes commited by politicians would be the political parties themselves. The JVP would be the best source (I think they have a good spy network), then the parties identified with the minorities, and finally the UNP. Then check on the information at the relevant police stations.

 
Bimal
2013-02-08 15:15:33

Easy to fix,… keep them busy,… give them jobs that can divert their attention. For example,…

http://as-good-as.blogspot.com/2013/02/chairman-of-selectors.html

 
2013-02-08 15:32:32

// So the data is useless.//

That’s your philosophy in five words. No point in going on and on about this. You can remain bullheaded for all you want. After all, it’s not against the law.

shammi
2013-02-08 19:59:15

And there’s no point in telling you that however many theorems you may be armed with, it’s useless to keep “updating your probabilities” in tinyincrements using data of little relevance. But just carry on as you wish, because there’s no danger of sane peole jumping to conclusions based on your half baked tests.

 
 
shammi
2013-02-08 19:57:16

And there’s no point in telling you that however many theorems you may be armed with, it’s useless to keep “updating your probabilities” based on data of little relevance. But just carry on as you wish, because there’s no danger of sane peole jumping to conclusions based on your half baked tests.

2013-02-09 10:21:53

Look. It’s not my problem that Thomas Bayes wasn’t able to dumb it down. Ask him, when you meet him in your non-existent heaven someday.

 
 
shammi
2013-02-09 10:51:19

Cant. my final destination of choice is hell, and it’s not Bayes’ fault that you dont know how apply his theorem to the best advantage, going at it as you are with the least relevant data.

 
Buffalo Citizen
2013-02-18 18:22:03

When is the backward a$$ country going to get developed? I Have been waiting for 49 years :-C

shammi
2013-02-18 20:06:41

What did you expect, when the country is full of buffalo waiting for things to happen instead of doing something about it?

 
 
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