Sri Lanka to hire two hang­men

Gulf Times - - ASIA -

Sri Lanka said yes­ter­day it plans to hire two hang­men, two days af­ter Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena said he might sign off on the ex­e­cu­tion of con­victed drug traf­fick­ers ar­rang­ing drug deals from jail.

A prison of­fi­cial said ap­pli­cants would be sought for two po­si­tions of ex­e­cu­tioner, va­cant since March 2014 when the last hang­man quit soon af­ter set­ting eyes on the gal­lows for the first time.

Drug traf­fick­ing car­ries the death penalty in Sri Lanka but no one has been ex­e­cuted for any crime in the coun­try since 1976. All death penal­ties have been com­muted to life in prison since then.

But Sri Lanka, like other coun­tries in Asia that have cracked down on drugs, feels it is be­ing over­whelmed by nar­cotics and the pres­i­dent said re­cently ac­tion was needed.

“Since the pres­i­dent said he was go­ing to im­ple­ment cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, we need to get ready. So we are go­ing to hire two hang­men,” Thushara Upuldeniya, a spokesman for the prison ser­vice, said.

“We will ad­ver­tise and call ap­pli­ca­tions for the va­can­cies next week.”

Sirisena told a pub­lic gath­er­ing on Wed­nes­day there were con­victed drug traf­fick­ers ar­rang­ing drugs deals from prison and he might sign off on ex­e­cu­tion or­ders for them.

At least 18 peo­ple con­victed for drugs of­fences could be ex­e­cuted, Upuldeniya said. There were also 356 peo­ple on death row for mur­der, he said.

Thou­sands of peo­ple have been killed in a war on drugs in the Philip­pines and scores have been killed in a sim­i­lar cam­paign in Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka, a pre­dom­i­nantly Bud­dhist coun­try, in 2015 voted in favour of a UN res­o­lu­tion for a mora­to­rium on the death penalty.

In­ter­na­tional drug smug­glers have in­creas­ingly turned to Sri Lanka as a tran­sit hub in Asia, au­thor­i­ties have said.

But many cit­i­zens be­moan a sharp rise in all crime, not just drug deal­ing, since the end of a 26-year civil war with eth­nic Tamil sep­a­ratists in 2009.

The rights group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional on Wed­nes­day urged Sirisena not to im­ple­ment the death penalty, say­ing it should pre­serve its long­stand­ing pos­i­tive record on shun­ning “cruel and ir­re­versible pun­ish­ment”.

Sri Lanka has had no ex­e­cu­tioner since March 2014 when the hang­man quit weeks af­ter he was hired, cit­ing stress. Two hang­men hired in 2013 failed to show up.

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