26 June, 2019

Blog

To Hang Or Not To Hang!

By Sharmini Serasinghe

Sharmini Serasinghe

President, Maithripala Sirisena dropped a bombshell out of the blues last week, sans all ‘maître’ (loving-kindness) when he launched a coup de main on drug offenders. He threatened to use his powers to place his signature to execute the death sentence on those sentenced for drug offenses.

Drug trafficking carries the death penalty in Sri Lanka, but since 1976 it has not been implemented. Though JR Jayewardene retained the death penalty in the 1978 Constitution, he never signed the death warrant but commuted it to life imprisonment. Since then, all those who held the position of the President of Sri Lanka followed this precedent and commuted all death sentences issued by the courts to life sentences.

But one solitary courageous and humane man with a conscience and common sense; Minister Mangala Samaraweera openly voiced his dissent. He said, “I have always been against the Death Penalty and my stance has not changed. Even within the Cabinet, I voiced my opinion but the majority was for it. What is needed is, to take action against the main culprits responsible for running the drug cartels in the country. The ones that are in the prison are not the ring leaders; they are just peddlers and second level dealers. The big ones are hidden behind charity work, affluent social work organisations and religious organisations — we need a system to catch them by enforcing law and order in full force.”

Minister Samaraweera correctly points out that there is no evidence of crime rates falling in the presence of the Death Penalty in countries which had enforced it; and the best course of action instead is to enforce the law to the letter. 

As he rightly says, this country needs more rehabilitation centres for drug addicts instead of sending them to prison, and that life imprisonment for drug dealers was a greater punishment than death, “It would kill him a little every day instead of putting him out of his misery”.

For the latter to be effective there should be no chance of parole available to the offender and locked away in a maximum, high-security prison similar to the former Alcatraz Federal Prison in the USA. Such would be a fate far worse than death! 

Killing the offender by whatever means deemed ‘legal’ is the easiest way out. The challenge for the authorities concerned is to let the offender live until the end of his natural life but, away from society.

But many of us share his doubts whether, in reality, it will ever be possible to apprehend the large scale drug lords despite the death penalty!  

The rich and powerful drug barons and kingpins with “connections”, with some among them, reportedly living a luxurious life in prison will pooh-pooh it all. The police in this regard are, at the best of times, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, with political pressure of all hues bearing down on them, while some amongst them are reportedly colluding with the underworld. 

Though our Police are not particularly reputed for its integrity, there are also the pearls amongst the swine who have lost their morale due to lack of political will and backing. 

Furthermore, no criminal justice system is immune from error. This is a fact though most prefer not to acknowledge it. Despite the best efforts of most within the system to do what’s right and justifiable, there is always room for error. And with the death penalty enforced, the possibility of the innocent facing the hangman’s noose is inevitable. 

Also, most of those who advocate the death penalty may not know or care to know the traumatic, economic, social and psychological repercussions it would inevitably have on the family members of the sentenced. 

Shockingly, though it should not be, the Minister of Buddha Sasana, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera did a volte-face on his cabinet colleague Mangala Samraweera on the matter. He fully endorses President Sirisena’s call to revive the death penalty, while claiming to have the full backing of the Maha Sangha.  He also laments, “It should have been carried out fifteen years ago.”

From the human rights perspective, capital punishment is clearly a serious human rights violation. The premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being defines the death penalty, and it is the ultimate violation of Human Rights by the State in the most cruel, inhuman and degrading way; all in the name of justice!

According to many United Nations studies across different countries and regions, there is no credible evidence whatsoever that the death penalty has a greater deterrent effect than prison terms. Thus it has no justification from the perspective of the Buddhist philosophy or international human rights law.

At the end of the day each person who favours and condones the death penalty has to reconcile it with their moral principles!

The law of karma as per the Buddhist philosophy does not recognise motive as justification to take a life, be it a human or animal, nor does it absolve one of the crime however appropriate it may seem for some. 

Karmic retribution is no respecter of person, and will haunt the perpetrator and follow him/her, life after life. The design and intent to kill is the fundamental factor here, and the natural law of cause and effect that will come into force as a result, is irrevocable and unstoppable!  

What moral-right has any man to decide if another should live or die!

Hatred is never ceased by hatred. By non-hatred alone is hatred ceased. This is the eternal law.”- Dhammapada

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Latest comments

  • 13
    0

    Earlier, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera was in charge of both wild animals and the Buddha Sasana. A strange combination. Maybe it was Sirisena’s idea of a joke. Anyway I’m much relieved they have taken the wild animals away from this eerie fellow.

    • 17
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      Ms Sharmini Serasinghe,

      I totally agree with you and can’t fault a single word you’ve written.

      But Lanka is Lanka …………. and the unique Lankan paradox is ……… if Duminda de Silva’s death sentence is not carried out ……… when the Rajapakses get back in …….. they’ll sprung him from gaol ……… then where is the justice for the victims?

      I’m a very normal dude – at least that’s what I think – but when it comes to Lanka I’m totally bipolar ………. dunno which way to think!

      How are you guys so normal ………… and take all this in your stride? ………. just blows my mind!

      • 0
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        Lanka is called as ‘ SRI KUDU ceLANKA ‘……… who will be responsible for those who destroyed their lives because of Kudu addict ?

      • 6
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        It is easy to quote dammapada. During Lord Buddha’s time death sentence was in force. Buddha never asked the then kings to pardon murderers etc. He never got involved in the running a state.There were 32 types of Punishment then . Let the state run the way a country is run. . Let religious leaders keep away from the mundane things.

  • 22
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    Introducing a death penalty is so ludicrous in a country where the so called lawmakers are more evil than the worst of the lawbreakers. Furthermore, a death penalty is simply a sanctioned murder.

    • 2
      1

      Exactly you are right. Evils are lawmakers. President himself is an evil. President himself protects the evils from facing the justice.

    • 0
      1

      Dr.Anarchis. How true. Also the stand against Death penelty is also correct.WHY NOT STRIP THEM NAKED AND TIE TO A LAMP POST AND KEEPTHEM THUS FOR FIVE DAYS? IN THE MEANTIME ANYBODY WHO WANTS TO PISS CAN PISS ONTO THEM
      THIS IS CRITICAL FOR MONKS.

    • 3
      0

      Dr.Anarchist!
      You are right. I understand that quite a number of politicians are either involved or support the ‘druggists’ Hence if the drug pedalers are put to death the politicians names will not come out even at a later stage. Thus they live to contest another election without any’ blemish’. A better way of punishing the the drug pedalers is to sentence them to hard labour and employ them in the construction industries, road building etc after training. There appears to be a shortage of labour in Srilanka. Instead of importing labour from China you could use the pedalers, provided China does not oppose this move. If you decide on Eye for an Eye and Tooth for a Tooth then you may consider death penalty too for murder. Perhaps you may consider death penalty only for politicians found guilty of bribery and corruption and rapes. The pronouncement of death penalty should be removed from the statute for all other offences.

  • 5
    1

    First level of civilization: No death penalty at all. Even for murder, even for 100 murders. All European Union countries ( a primary condition to be admitted to the Union)
    x
    Second level of civilization : Death penalty only for murder. USA, India and majority of countries.
    x
    Third level of civilization : Death penalty even for offenses like drugs and corruption. China, Singapore, SRI LANKA (Whether you practise it or not is another discussion )
    x
    Forth level of civilization : Death penalty for adultery, apostasy, blasphemy. All Muslim countries.
    x
    Soma

  • 2
    3

    Ms Serasinghe,
    I generally agree with you on matters related to the behavior of the clergy; on this however, I have to diverge. I believe that criminal society in Sri Lanka is behaving with impunity……Even the rich and powerful can kill rugger players knowing they are untouchable…..the first step is to re implement and carry out executions, the Damocles Sword has to hand over criminals…….secondly……..must slowly start touching the untouchable. Everybody says capital punishment isn’t a ditterant…..what about Singapore?

  • 4
    1

    Very sad thing indeed to happen in a Buddhist country. If Malcolm Ranjith endorses it, it’s ok. Even if the current pope doesn’t sanction it, historically Christians have been very busy putting their people to the gruesome death……..that same light of evil can come into the eyes in reflection of those times. But for the Buddhists, violence, torture and death was always a no-no. This shows the superior level of complex thought Buddhist always had in dealing with societal issues. Bring in the death penalty to Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka as a Buddhist nation will be damned.

    • 5
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      Ramona Thereses Fernando,

      “This shows the superior level of complex thought Buddhist always had in dealing with societal issues.”

      I don’t think it’s fair to paint all Buddhists with the same brush.

      • 1
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        Sharmini,
        I don’t think Ramona is being sarcastic.

    • 3
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      Ramona, this is another path to attain nirvana

    • 3
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      Ramona Therese Fernando, why go into simple letters . Planning to enter the Buddhist order.
      “But for the Buddhists, violence, torture and death was always a no-no.”

      This is all bunkum. Buddhist have been as violent and torture people as any other society.

      Let us take an example, after Gemunu killed Elara either by throttling him and the people of Anuradhapura turned on the Southerners, it was Buddhist monks who organised the army for Gemunu.

      It is said that an attempt was made by the temple to kill the king at kandy and the leader of the Malwatte Temple knew of the attempt.The leader was Weliwita Sraranankara.

      • 0
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        Upali Wickramasinghe,

        What you say applies to Cultural Buddhists who regard Buddhism as a god fearing religion, not to those who follow the philosophy of the Dhamma.

      • 1
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        Yeah, but all that was war-time killing when rules can’t hardly apply. But deliberate premeditated peace-time sanctioned rules do not include killing in Buddhist societies. Buddhists find higher cognitive paths of dealing with societal issues.

        • 3
          1

          “Buddhists find higher cognitive paths of dealing with societal issues.”

          Ramona, Ramona,

          Can ye please tell me where these Buddhists are? ……….. So I can go and live among them.

          I’ve looked and looked and looked and looked …………. but cant find, No?

          • 1
            0

            Agreed! Current Lankan Buddhists tend to be on the mean-spirited side. Once the effects of Colonization and ME oilazization have been extinguished, all will go back to the time of Dutugemunu. Each Buddhist has to tend to his/her own psychological path. And we need a strong leader to show us the way.

            • 8
              1

              Therese,

              “Once the effects of Colonization and ME oilazization have been extinguished”

              So, outside forces are to be blamed, eh? …….Not the people themselves ……. they just follow like sheep? What forces influenced Buddha to renounce worldly comforts and walk into the jungles to contemplate on the meaning of life? Didn’t he “self influence” himself out of his own free will? Following Buddha means ……… people following his example and thinking for themselves ………. why should they wait for a “strong leader?” ………. That’s why I admire people like Shyamon, Sarath, Sharmini ……… they are Buddhists who are blessed with the “higher cognitive abilities” to think for themselves while still remaining practicing Buddhists faithful to his teachings ………

              “the time of Dutugemunu”

              Why so far back? ………… Doesn’t it show that people have miserably failed rest of the time ……… through the ages? Perhaps Buddha’s teachings are too difficult for people to follow ………. so why don’t people just stop the humbuggery of calling themselves “Buddhists” and simply wallow in debauchery ? Irrespective of whatever they call themselves …….. they wallow in it anyways! :))

              We just put Dutugemunu on a pedestal because no one really knows him …….. except through yarns passed down through the generations ………. people put Newton on a pedestal for his great scientific/natural insights ……… but not many people know what a bastard he was as a person! ……… There you have it …….. our “designated heroes” :))

              ” And we need a strong leader to show us the way.”

              Who is this leader? Anyone particular in mind? :))

              Follow the leader? ……….. Go with the flow ……… follow like sheep, eh?

              • 0
                0

                Gota.

                • 0
                  0

                  Great! What irony!……….. you are calling on a crazed serial-killer to show people ………….the Buddha’s path, eh? ……….. Ha ha ha ………. can things get any more nuttier?

                  What would Lanka be if there were no Lankans? ……… At time I wonder! :))

                  • 0
                    2

                    Where’s the proof that Gota ever did serial-killing? Lankan without Lankans will be no-Lanka. Therefore, the rights of the majority is paramount!

                    • 2
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                      ramona scatter brain grandma therese fernando

                      ” Lankan without Lankans will be no-Lanka.”

                      Its fine.
                      Lanka and Sri Lanka are Hindian names.

                      “Therefore, the rights of the majority is paramount!”

                      What rights are you talking about, impunity, right to run a fascist state from a Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto?

  • 6
    1

    We don’t have to re-introduce it is already there. Suspects killed in the guise of looking for arms. 24 Journalists killed during the recent past where the hand of the Govt is suspected, prison inmates under the care of the Govt, killed mercilessly are some of the executions.

  • 2
    0

    “Furthermore, no criminal justice system is immune from error. This is a fact though most prefer not to acknowledge it. Despite the best efforts of most within the system to do what’s right and justifiable, there is always room for error. And with the death penalty enforced, the possibility of the innocent facing the hangman’s noose is inevitable.
    Also, most of those who advocate the death penalty may not know or care to know the traumatic, economic, social and psychological repercussions it would inevitably have on the family members of the sentenced.” true indeed, however
    Personally this has always been the reason could not accept the death penalty because we could end up punishing the innocent where we can not go back on etc. Because of the judicial system and the respective support system to convict someone beyond reasonable doubt is “not ready” for such adventures/delivering justice in our country and agree.
    If we look at other countries who has stopped having death penalties is because of civilised/ compassionate reasons and not wanting to punish the innocent by mistake has been the case many times over. This is one of the biggest flaws even in the American system does not account for many civilised norms/circumstances and prawn to mistakes too but they do it because this has implications/deterrence to the criminals. We have several good examples even in the other western system where the wrong people were convicted of many crimes and had to be released after spending their entire life in prison because better evidence emerged much later. That is justice indeed however unfair may be for the individual but better than being dead perhaps?.

  • 5
    0

    However one has to understand the Most Hon. Presidents position to run the country when the entire nation and her next generation is being poisioned for ever in such an audacious way by the “scums of the earth”. We had to start a journey of law and order somewhere at some point and will give the benefit of the doubt to our Hon. President this time until such time we can revisit the moral arguments would only be fair?. I am not sure this should even be left to the judicial system but for the military to take care should considerd?. Why can not we make this low forms of life’s the drug peddelers disappear? the source of the drugs need to be addressed in the UN and the countries where this drug coming from should be made to pay for our pain and disgraced in the international platform too. This should be left to the secret services to deal where nothing need to be reported in public except we just stopped having drug problems for good. This is how I feel about anything that stops us from enjoying our life in our own land after few hundred thousand of her children have lost life through the same for the past 70 years that was the arms industry and geo political manipulations. Now the drugs and they are no different. Arms=Drugs=Chios=weakened nation=lost cause=further rape.
    This should also be extended to those who killed fellow politicians/citizens too in the name of National Questions that had no relevance to a newly born country after 500 years of colonial rule. There were no “national question” except to make our case to the public for their vote but this is not what happened in our nation too.

  • 5
    0

    Like the list provided from the panama papers the powerful used offshore finance industries with compiled lists of important scandalous, The skeleton staffs who provided facts to NYT having the information can the concerned authority bring law standards for illegal trading, there is no need of gathering information, it is all provided in such papers

  • 3
    0

    We are talking about “drug barons and kingpin” not the addicts to save the addicts and future addicts.

  • 2
    0

    In addition the death penalty should be extended to racists/rioters/rapists too. This should be a holistic event fix the country once and for all where we never have to discuss race/religion/language/rape/riots ever again. We should ban all parties with race/religious/language names for ever. This is a good opportunity to discuss how the nations constitution should look like to stop divisive politics in our country forever too where no crook has a place to hide. We will never be a Vietnam/Korea/Sudan/Palestinian territories with border posts/armed forces/missiles/nuclear weapons/walls/electrical fencing but a beautiful nation with human respect/dignity setting president to all others how to live harmoniously with nature. I am so sorry for the Hon Government Minister for the responses she had for her concern she raised with regard to a rape of a child and the killing of the child in our nation. This shows the ignorant state of affairs that exist for a Tamil speaking Minister to represent her subjects and the dilemma she faces in doing her work. We all spent time undermining a Government Minister for raising the issue where this kind of crime in 21st century should be considered a “National shame” sending chills to the born and should have had a different response by the media/politicians/public at large. Given the security apparatus we have we should have caught the culprits within minutes? the nation would have published series of articles on crime statistics/child abuse/SL woman abuse home and abroad and shaken the entire world with the strong sentiments/feelings that even when our woman abroad they do not feel week and venerable but know their nation is watching out for them?? What have we become Mother Lanka?? wake up stand up and be counted please. Execution should be in public too or telecasted please.

  • 2
    1

    Sharmini Serasinghe:
    WE too admire Minister Mangala Samaraweera for openly voicing his dissent on the ” To Hang Or Not To Hang!” issue. He stood outside the inner circle but inside the outer circle leaning on ‘collective’ responsibility.
    .
    This debate has come on the heels of the Vijeyakala/Gotler debate. Both created lots of heat. The Gotler is just smoke now but Vijeyakala is on fire.
    .
    Is it just a coincidence that the Bellana-gate has been taken off out minds? Bellana in the meantime has been moved laterally. As what? Where? Hope not to SriLankan Airlines.

  • 2
    0

    In the SWRD Murder case in the late 50s, both Buddharakita Thero and Somarama were sentenced to death. It was carried out on Somarama who removed his robes and died a Christian. However, Buddharakita appealed and E.G.Wickremanayake Q.C who argued his appeal told the Supreme Court that the Death sentence cannot be carried out since the necessary Legislation was not passed in Parliament. The argument was upheld and Buddharakita had his death sentence commuted to LIFE. He later died in Prison shortly thereafter. In that sense Somarama was lucky.His life ended in a jiffy.
    This buttresses the argument of Mangala Samaraweera.

  • 4
    0

    Protestants and muslims preaching buddhism. Muslim countreis do not have drug problems. Malaysia and tha Athiest cou7ntry Singapore do not have drug problems. IT is a Democratic country and gives death sentence to drug traffickers. Sri lanka’s drug problem is politicians, higher offcicials and foreign spy agencies are involved. that is the only way to take control. Besides, I don’t think Maithripalais genuione. IT is just getting ready for election.

    • 1
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      jim

      pakistan has 10 million drug users,mostly cannabis.Comes fro afghanistan.

      more than 130000 of malaysians are registered drug users mostly heroin ,but ice is catching up.80% are malays.Unregistered must be much more.

      indonesia is the largest drug market in asia.

      in saudi more than 50000 drug addicts are treated annually.

      so much for your muslim country not having drug problem.It is a global problem.

      portugal cut drug addiction by half in fifteen years by decriminalizing it.So as the writer of our CT article says the way to go for us too is decriminalizing it.Addicts are victims,not criminals and should be treated and helped instead of stigma.

      The UN world drug report interactive map shows europe is by far the leading drug users and also US,canada ,australia and NZ.This shows that this is primarily a white peoples problem,just as aids was a black african problem and gradually spreads elsewhere becoming globalised.Central america,caribbean and venzuela too is infes ted with drugs.I believe american and european tourists would have been the cause.

      In philipines too it is huge .must be due to its american influenced history. It has spread a lot to cambodia ,laos and thailand,but not much in vietnam.Must be because it is a communist country.China also not much.Cuba also not much though the rest of caribbean is infested.Communism seems good for less drug use and this co relation should be studied by experts.

      Africa is relatively unscathed except nigeria and south africa whre it is huge.A study as to why only these two countries should be made.

      portugal,the problem is small while neighbouring spain is badly affected.France though is very much less than spain,but a bit more than portugal

      Portugal is alike a beacon in a infested europe and france too.They are doing something right as pointed out by our CT article author whose name kills me.

  • 2
    0

    views against death penulty are correct. but, as a deterrent to future murders drug offences, Death penulty is needed. Only question whether Maithripala sirisena is genuine or playing politics. but, death penulty is not unheard of in many countries in the world.

  • 1
    0

    well bringing death penalty is very backwards civilisation…in this modern age there is another option.
    ask all drug pushers and their bosses to surrender to a no drug zone with a white flag
    and bomb the hell out of them…

  • 0
    0

    to hand or not to hang-lets compromise,sunday sil and monday kill.

  • 2
    0

    To Hang Or Not To Hang! – you mean the Rajapakses?

    Hang them all!!!!

    • 0
      0

      how to hang the only head of state who finished off the LTTE,though he is a plunderer and murderer.That is the dilemma faced by the people.

  • 1
    0

    I think Mangala Samaraweera knows all in the drug trade are his friends and associates. that is the support he is giving. He scores even with anti death penulty and buddhists who do not what is happening behind.

  • 3
    0

    Any person who values life would never condone the death penalty. The death penalty is state sponsored homicide, and as the author pointed out, it is cruel and cold.

    • 0
      0

      you don’t think what happened to the victim was cruel?If someone rapes and tortures and kills your daughter how will you feel.Won’t you want that fellow hanged?

  • 2
    0

    I am a huge opponent of the death penalty. As a man of utmost peace, it’s my belief that even the worst criminals can be rehabilitated. As such, I believe in rehabilitative punishment. If the death penalty is enacted for murders, then the captured LTTE fellas should be the first to be hung.

    I see the Tamil fellas here are big proponents of the death penalty. I guess only if the persons to be hung are non-Tamils.

    The Tamils are damn lucky the death penalty wasn’t there during the war, otherwise, we would have hung every god damn Tamil that none would be left by now.

  • 0
    0

    ramona scatter brain grandma therese fernando

    ” Lankan without Lankans will be no-Lanka.”

    Its fine.
    Lanka and Sri Lanka are Hindian names.

    “Therefore, the rights of the majority is paramount!”

    What rights are you talking about, impunity, right to run a fascist state from a Sinhala/Buddhist ghetto?

  • 0
    0

    Its no point bashing the present President or those who are promoting the death penalty.

    Yes the problem has always been, not implementing all past governments have always done much talk not just on death penalty but everything else connected to law & order but never walked the talk.

    The government and the President must implement the death penalty ,but it can not include the past criminals who are now in jail,instead their sentence should be changed to life in prison.

    You need to start fresh ,otherwise its an injustice and favoritism to the criminals who are not present today ,Some are dead or some have migrated for good.

    You need to provide a fixed date ,month and year and state that will commence the death sentence .

    That is the most fair justice to cone up with .

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