By Sarath Wijesinghe –
Death is painful and unpleasant. Animal or a human being want to live at least one minute more at the death which is common to all. Life is pleasant and enjoyable during the lifetime. Has another being got the right to take this precious life of another? Is he/she not liable for the maximum punishment depending on the gravity. In the animal kingdom the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest prevails. Carnivores kill pray for food, but do not kill unnecessarily. Only the pray is killed to meet hunger. Man kills other for various other reasons. They kill in bulk for no reason. Some legal systems have accepted taking others life legal as punishment and deterrent to prevent crime against the society. Death sentence is imposed for killing another and many other major crimes which has a long history running back to primitive ages.
Death Sentence/Capital punishment in Sri Lank and worldwide
Death sentence was practiced in Sri Lanka during ancient kings who are also guardians of Buddhism based on peace, non-aggression nonviolence and promoting the value of living beings. Other counties worldwide too the capital punishment was prevalent irrespective of the religious practices and beliefs. During Sinhala Kings the kinds and types of torture and death have been cruel and torturous presumably with the Indian influence. Currently the death penalty is governed by the Penal Code imported from the British during colonial period though it is taken away from the British Jurisprudence. Section 296 of the penal code states that ‘whoever committees murder shall be punishable death and Section 54 (AB) of poison opium and dangerous drugs ordinance with mandatory death sentence’ are part of the laws of the land though not implemented by many Presidents who has the last word on implementation. No execution has taken place in Sri Lanka since 23rd June 1976 with successive governments and leaders have attempted to reintroduce capital punishment due to agitations from the public as a result of un precedent crime rate in the country. Agitation activates from time to time with mass murders and slaying of innocence. Again the current topic of the day is Death Penalty due to ‘Saya’ and Vidya girl’s murders followed by killings of innocent and children amidst others. Death sentence is imposed on drugs which is a fast killer of the youth and catalyst for crime which is fast spreading. Has capital punishment reduced the drug menace and the mafia is a matter to be discussed by sociologists.
22 countries were known to have carried out judicial executions in 2014 and 607nhave ben carried out in 2014. To date China has carried out 1000, Iran 289.Saudi Arabia 90.USA 35, and /Sudan 23 executions. The first established death penalty law as far as 1st century BC in the code of king ‘Hammaurabi’ which codified death penalty for 25 different crimes.
Agitation by the ordinary masses for implementation
Agitation for capital punishment is gathering momentum among the ordinary masses when the Lawyers, Professionals and the educated have a cautious approach due to the ineffectiveness of the legal system,incapabaliaty of the criminal justice systemand administrative justice in Sri Lanka. Even in the developed countries such as USA UK and the west despite the modern developments, there are grave loopholes in the process of administration of justice. USA is known to have rough justice whereas UK is comparatively soft and professional with modern techniques and developments in the case law and administration of justice. Campaign and the agitation of the general masses Is justified due to the increase of the crime rate drastically and the inhuman nature of the crimes committed often all over the country. They are not fully aware of the weaknesses in the legal system and the process which is basic expensive and not foolproof. It takes a long time as much as a decade at times for the trial to reach the trial stage and the witnesses and the police by then are transferred and could be tampered with proving the adage the Justice Delayed is Justice denied. How reliable the Precaution and Police are matters to be considered in the judicial process which leads to the life of individual on trial. In the UK with the advancement of the jurisprudence and the system still miscarriage of justice takes place. It is fair and reasonable to postpone or deny the society on carrying on the mode of punishment which is a necessity for a society seeking justice a display are matters left for the Judiciary and the leaders of the administration of justice.
Anti-Death Punishment campaign worldwide
Anti-Death Penalty campaign is gathering momentum when many countries in Asia, Africa and Middle East are in the process of implementation of the death penalty which no resistance by the citizens. In the Middle East stoning to death for matters considered trivial by the world is welcome by the people based on religious beliefs. Controversial statement by the New Sri Lankan Ambassador in Saudi Arabia in conceding and justifying stoning to death of the Sri Lankan women on the base that those in employment should respect the law of the land raises eyebrows of law abiding Sri Lankans co-sponsored a human resolution even against her nation expecting the goodwill of the international brotherhood.
Sri Lanka is a signatory to the Optimal Protocol which strongly suggest abolition of the Death Penalty and later taken part at the vote on the moratorium process on the campaign on abolition. President Sirisena made a controversial remark in favor of implementation in the wake of two murders of Seya and Vidya that if the Parliament gives the nod, he is prepared to use his prerogative to reactivate the execution process. Among 54 African countries 36 have retained death penalty when 35 American states 17 have retained whiles out of 54 Afrasian countries 36 have retained. Out of 49 European countries only one country(Belarus) have retained capital punishment.’ A South African Judge remarked that the great deterrent to crime is the likelihood that offender will be apprehended convicted and punished’
Capital Punishment and Life sentence
Suicidal rate in Sri Lanka is one of the highest. But the moment the news of reactivation was announced, the inmates of the death row started purging. When the death sentence is announced relations start crying and at times the accused faints or screams. There is a view that the death penalty may be a deterrent for crime. Most religions do not encourage death sentence. There is a view against the reactivation of the death penalty on the grounds of insufficient training of the administration of justice, insufficient medical and scientific support, time consumed Political interference including bribery and corruption.
In Sri Lanka it is informed that the life in prisons is with lot of facilities and a place to earn by demanding ransoms and illegal transactions. Money speaks and all the comforts are available if funds are available. With the payroll the inmate will be able to leave prisons earlier than the sentence, which is not the case in USA where the inmates are on solitary confinement with no paroled with stringent conditions to worst offenders. Living is so difficult that they prefer to die than in the prison. But it is expensive to maintain these conditions in Sri Lanka. It may be a good idea to bring about changes on these lines and the current safety nets of going through the Trial Judge, the Attorney General, The Minister of Justice and the advisers to the President can be regularized and introduced safety reforms. It is a good idea to continue the debate until a final decision is taken taking into all the vies and considerations of the concerned peaceful and peace loving Citizen.