Wanted: Two hangmen in Sri Lanka

Drug trafficking carries the death penalty in Sri Lanka but no one has been executed for any crime in the country since 1976. (AFP)
Updated 14 July 2018
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Wanted: Two hangmen in Sri Lanka

  • At least 18 people convicted for drugs offenses could be executed
  • Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, in 2015 voted in favor of a UN resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka said on Friday 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, told Reuters.
“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 offenses 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 favor 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.


Sri Lanka needs hangmen after resuming capital punishment

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena. (REUTERS)
Updated 1 min 56 sec ago
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Sri Lanka needs hangmen after resuming capital punishment

  • The president believes that punishment by state execution is the best way to combat the country’s drugs crisis

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government is on the hunt for executioners following its decision to bring back capital punishment.
A job advertisement published in the country’s state-run newspaper is seeking two people of “very good mind and mental strength” to fill the newly created posts.
The move follows President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to reinstate the death penalty within the next two months.
According to the advert, published on behalf of Sri Lanka’s Department of Prisons, the ideal candidates need to be aged between 18 and 45 with a basic education.
And the successful applicants will earn a generous $290 per month, an amount well above average for a public sector job in the country.
Sri Lanka’s prisons spokesman, Thushara Upuldeniya, told Arab News that his department had placed the advertisement on Feb. 11 but had not yet received any applications. The final date for applying for the executioner posts is Feb. 25.
Upuldeniya said that any applicants selected will have to undergo a viva voce test (oral examination).

“In addition to mental strength, the personality and physical strength of the applicant will also be taken into consideration,” he added.
During an address to the Sri Lankan Parliament last week, Sirisena said that those convicted of drug-related offenses will be the first to be sent to the gallows.
The president believes that punishment by state execution is the best way to combat the country’s drugs crisis. Sirisena’s decision is seen by some as mirroring Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s approach to crime, and could lead to 25 people, including two drug dealers, facing execution.
A list of detainees convicted of drug-related crimes was handed to Sri Lanka’s Presidential Secretariat on Jan. 25. There are an additional 436 people, including six women, on death row for crimes including murder.
A predominantly Buddhist country, Sri Lanka voted in favor of a UN resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty in 2015.
Sri Lanka’s judiciary imposes capital punishment, but the death penalty has not been implemented since June 23, 1976. The government reinstated the punishment for killings, rape, and drug trafficking in 2004 following the murder of a high court judge.
At present two jails in the country, Welikada and Bogambara, are equipped to carry out capital punishment whenever a presidential order is received.
However, finding the right people for the job of executioner seems an uphill task, at least for now.
After searching for an executioner for three years, Sri Lanka’s prison department appointed a hangman in 2014. He was given a week’s training, but on seeing the gallows for the first time, became distressed and immediately resigned.
Meanwhile, an official told Arab News that a new noose is being imported, as the current one had served its time.
The Sri Lanka Standards Institution said it had already requested the Foreign Ministry to order a noose from Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh or India. The previous one was gifted by Pakistan in 2015.