President Maithripala Sirisena, addressing a gathering in Polonnaruwa this morning, vowed to ensure that the death penalty would be implemented in the case of drug offenders, pointing out that when he proposed the same to Cabinet it was received with rousing applause and unanimous approval.
Sirisena, made this assertion at a ceremony to inaugurate the construction of a hospital with funds gifted by the Chinese Government.
He pointed out that none of those who have expressed objection to legal murder have done anything to combat the drug menace in the country. However Sirisena did not explain how executing offenders necessarily puts an end to drug trafficking and abuse.
The Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission has opposed capital punishment, a position also taken by Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera. Samaraweera, however, has stated that despite his personal opinion he stands by the ‘common position’ taken by cabinet.
Opponents have pointed out that unlike other crimes, those wrongfully convicted due to error of judgment or evidence of innocence being unavailable to court at the time of determination, those executed cannot have their innocence affirmed or compensated. In such an event, the President as well as the entire cabinet would be held responsible for the legal murder of the innocent.
The death penalty was abolished during the tenure of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1956 but was reinstated to punish those convicted of assassinating him in 1959. The relevant law was amended in 1978 requiring a ratification by the President, effectively ending execution. The last legal murder was carried out in 1976.