President’s decision justified | Daily News

President’s decision justified

The decision taken by President Maithripala Sirisena to enforce the death penalty which has been in abeyance for over four decades in this country is bound to draw mixed reactions from both here and abroad. Amnesty International, as usual, is the first to jump the bandwagon in condemning the planned move. The Mahanayakes were yet to respond, at the time this is being written. However, support for the move has come from the most unlikely quarter. Archbishop of Colombo, His Eminence Dr. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith saw no issue in reintroducing the hangman if criminals continued with their criminal acts while in prison. Speaking to a Sinhala Daily, His Eminence said, a life once taken cannot be given back. However, if those convicted for crime and drug trafficking yet continue these acts while serving their prison terms, a decent society cannot be created.

Participating in the inaugural ceremony of Mathata Erehiwa Pasalen Javayak (thrust against drugs from the schools) programme at the Getambe playground on Wednesday, the President said he will use his powers to place his signature to execute the death sentence on those sentenced to death for drug offenses. According to the President, the death sentence will be enforced against convicts already serving life terms, who continue to engage in the drugs business while in prison.” Although there are conflicting views about the death sentence in our society, Buddhist society in particular, if a society which listened to and preached an overdose of religious discourse is heading in the wrong direction, timely decisions should be taken to bring this menace under control”, the President asserted.

This is not the first occasion that the hangman was to be resurrected from his enforced demise in this country. Arguments for and against the enforcement of Capital punishment had been a perennial topic down the years, since the suspension of the death penalty four decades ago. Whenever some gruesome crime takes place there is naturally a public outcry for bringing back the hangman. This was seen in the aftermath of the rape and murder of eight-year-old Seya in Kotadeniyawa, two years ago.

There was the cryptic photo caption in a newspaper of former Interior Minister John Amaratunga inspecting the hangman’s noose at Welikada after the UNP government of 2001- 2004 made noises in favour of implementing the death penalty. This was after the gory massacre on the day of the 2001 December, General Elections, in Udathalawinna, of over half dozen Muslim youth who were supporters of SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem, who was backing the Greens at that poll. But the move was shelved for some reason or other, perhaps due to objections of the Buddhist clergy.

The last man who went to the gallows in this country was J.D. Siripala, alias Maru Sira. Before him Alfred Soysa, of Kalattewa fame, faced the hangman’s noose. Jayalal Anandagoda, the main accused in the famous Wilpattu murder case, was also hanged in Bogambara. There was no public outrage when Ven. Talduwe Somarama Thera was executed for the assassination of Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike.

The President’s decision to resume executions, we are certain, was not a precipitate one, but taken as a last resort, given the rapid escalation of drugs related killings. The public are given accounts in the newspapers of almost daily detections of large quantities of narcotics from some part of the country, or, while being smuggled into the country through the BIA. Three politicians were killed in the space of three months, their deaths linked to the drugs underworld. Today over 90 percent of the killings can be traced to disputes in sharing the spoils of drug money. The situation has reached such alarming proportions that moves are afoot to amend the laws to draft in the security forces to fight the drug underworld in this country. Hence, the President is fully justified in taking the step he has taken to introduce a strong deterrent to put an end to this mindless bloodletting and prevent the descent of the country into a state of anarchy.

Hemantha will be missed

The sudden demise of eminent President’s Counsel and former diplomat Hemantha Warnakulasuriya would have come as a shock to those who knew him intimately. Hemantha’s interests transcended the law and covered many topics such as politics, the arts and even cricket, just to name a few. He was also a maverick of sorts, and courted controversy by his utterings and his newspaper articles in which he was not shy of calling a spade a spade even if it meant offending those whose political patronage he enjoyed at some time or other. He was a live wire at Hulftsdorp and the ‘go to’ man for junior lawyers at times of crisis. The legal fraternity has lost a dear colleague and a colourful figure in an otherwise drab profession.


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