For survivors’ sake! | Daily News


Death penalty to save future generations from illicit drug traders

For survivors’ sake!

The Cabinet of Ministers has reportedly endorsed President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to revive the Capital punishment. Announcing this, Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said he decided to go with the majority decision although, as a Buddhist, he was against killings.

While the vast majority of Sri Lankans are in favour of executing those who are guilty of repeated drug smuggling, terrorism and child rape, there is a vociferous small minority opposed to the death penalty. Some argue on human rights grounds that no human being could deny the right to life of a person. While Buddhists are divided on this issue, many point out that nonviolence is a basic Buddhist principle and of the five precepts for laymen. The Buddha placed Panathipatha Veramani Sikkhapadam…, the abstaining from killings as the first precept.

The Buddha did not condone killings. But he did not interfere with the punishments meted out by the kings of that era. The Buddha established a Vinaya Pitaka or a code of discipline for the monks and it contains punishment for acts of indiscipline. However, there was no such punishment code for laymen as the Buddha merely showed them the good and the bad and he did not act as a disciplinary master.

Law and order

The Anguttara Nikaya outlines the punishments carried out by the then rulers. The punishments include killing, skinning alive, and torture until death, severing of arms and legs and various other ways of killings. These were pointed out, to the people, in Anguttara Nikaya merely to emphasise the need to do good that would gain merits and to refrain from killings, stealing and other criminal acts that are sinful. The Buddha did not try to interfere with the law and order and the system of punishment. That includes execution.

The Buddha decided not to interfere in wars between kings. When his own Sakya clan and Koliya clan fought each other and Prince Vidudabha decided to annihilate the Sakya clan, the Buddha, after trying twice to stop the army of Vidudabha by sitting under a tree on the path to persuade Vududabh to return to his kingdom, decided not to interfere and did not try to stop the invading army on the third day, on which day the Sakyas were massacred.

The Sakka Panna and Madhu Pindika Suttas describe the punishments in the kingdom and urge the people to refrain from evil. Different ways of executions were listed in Buddhist texts and the Buddha had not expressed any criticism about them.

The Buddha always stressed that people should accept the monarch’s law. The Anguttara Nikaya recounts a story of a righteous king, who asked a prisoner why he had stolen gold. When the prisoner replied that he had stolen because he did not have money to eat, the king gives him a handful of gold coins and releases him. Following day the King does the same thing to another thief who stole money. On the third day, when he wanted to give gold to a prisoner and release him the Purohitha advises him that even if the whole treasury of gold coins were given to prisoners, the habit of stealing, robbing and crimes would not end. The king accepts that sane advice and reverts to the legal punishments to robbers and other criminals.

The Buddha, who never interfered with the legal system, narrated these incidents for the people to understand the need to refrain from sins.

President Sirisena said, earlier this week, that international drug syndicates orchestrated Sri Lanka’s deadly Easter Sunday bombings killing over 260 civilians. He pointed out that there was an evil axis between drugs and terrorism. “Drug is the main contributory factor for poverty. The drug makes a person not only physically but also mentally ill,” President Sirisena said. “Prisons in Sri Lanka are only sufficient to house 11,000 inmates. But we already have 24,000. Out of this 15,000 are charged with offences related to drugs. The 11 rehabilitation centres for drug addicts are overcrowded.”

The President has decided to carry out the death sentence against repeated drug smugglers and drug offenders already sentenced to death. He said that because of this decision he is being attacked by international drug dealers. “Drug barons carried out this attack to discredit me and discourage my anti-narcotics drive. I will not be deterred,” he said.

The question arises whether the human rights activists who are opposed to executing repeated drug offenders would also come out to defend Islamist terrorists guilty of killing hundreds of civilians including foreigners. There were many women and children among the dead in the ruthless Islamist terror attack on Easter Sunday.

India did not hesitate to execute the Islamist terrorist responsible for the Mumbai killings. India, the land of the Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, Apostles of Nonviolence, took the hard decision in 2012 to hang Ajmal Kasab, the hardcore terrorist of Lakshar-e-Taiba militant organisation responsible for the killing of 72 innocent civilians in the Mumbai terror attack.

Public opinion

Similarly, if the terrorists, belonging to the local Jihadist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), responsible for the suicide bombings in churches and hotels that killed over 260 people on Easter Sunday are sentenced to death, will the human rights champs come to their defence?

President Sirisena is taking every possible attempt to carry out Capital punishment, which has been subject to a moratorium since 1976. He believes that a few executions would work as an effective deterrent to drug traffickers. “If the Parliament brings legislation to abolish Capital punishment, I will declare a day of national mourning,” Sirisena said in the statement, adding that public opinion favoured hanging the condemned criminals. Courts routinely hand down death sentences to drug offenders, murderers and rapists but it is automatically commuted a term of life imprisonment.

Sri Lanka’s decision to revive the death penalty to execute a few hardcore illicit drug traders has a noble motive of saving many lives of future generations. President Sirisena reiterated that it is essential to carry out Capital punishment against big-time illicit drug smugglers for the sake of the young generation of the country.

Several countries and organisations objected to the President’s move stating that the arbitrary execution of persons convicted of drug-related offences was wrong. They have ignored the fact that President Sirisena proposes to carry out execution for the drug offenders who continue their criminal drug trading while in prison and it is not an arbitrary execution. If these criminals carry out drug smuggling while in prison, it is very clear that these criminals do not have any desire to rectify their errant ways and become good citizens. So, the right to rehabilitate or reform is not a right they want to use.

Pointing out that there are about 100,000 drug addicts in the country, he urged all sections of the society, including media, to extend the fullest support to the government endeavours against illicit drugs. The President stressed that the death penalty would be carried out. “I might be depicted as a wrongdoer but I will do the right thing with honesty, according to my conscience,” he said.

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