Sri Lanka to reinstate capital punishment, says president

Sirisena launched a nationwide campaign against drug abuse 10 days ago. (AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Sri Lanka to reinstate capital punishment, says president

  • Country’s drug problem needs a tough approach, Sirisena tells Parliament

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is reinstating capital punishment, with those convicted of drug-related crimes the first to be hanged.

President Maithripala Sirisena told Parliament this week that the country’s drug problem needed a tough approach and that action needed to be taken against offenders.

Last month he praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for his war on drugs, which has claimed thousands of lives and led to rights groups condemning the extrajudicial killings at the hands of police and mob justice.

He visited the Philippines in January and said he intended to follow Duterte’s example. Duterte extended his cooperation to the president in tackling the issue.

Sirisena launched a nationwide campaign against drug abuse 10 days ago. A new train service and a presidential task force have been set up as part of a drug eradication program.

There are 18 inmates convicted of drug-related offenses out of the 376 people on death row, according to prison authorities. Death sentences have been commuted to life imprisonment due to the 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.

Last month, two Bangladeshis were nabbed with a massive drug haul: 272 kg of heroin and 5 kg of cocaine. This incident was followed by three Bangladeshi women being caught in a similar operation in Colombo. 

On Wednesday 31 Sri Lankan drug dealers were caught in Dubai.

Analyst and Western Province Gov. M. Azath S. Salley said that bringing back executions was a step in the right direction. 

“Sirisena is concerned about students, who will be the future generation of this country,” he told Arab News. “He wants a healthy generation to grow on this soil and the country will learn a lesson from the death sentence carried out on all drug dealers.”

B.M. Murshideen, president of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Foundation, also supported the government’s decision. He told Arab News it would control the increasing number of drug-related offenses reported during recent months.

But lawyer and human rights activist Sajeewani Abeyakone was unconvinced. “I am not in favor of it. Such offenders should be rehabilitated in a special camp,” she told Arab News.

Sirisena completes his five-year term next January and is confident about participating in presidential polls before then.

As leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, he commands healthy support among the electorate and polled around 6 million votes in the previous election to defeat his rival Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is now the leader of the opposition.

Although Sirisena has declared his intention to take part in the polls, candidates from other parties have not yet announced their interest in running, giving him an edge over the competition.


Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

Updated 28 min 9 sec ago
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Russia’s Port of Vladivostok prepares to host Kim Jong Un

  • Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok
  • Proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected in Russia’s far-eastern port Vladivostok in the coming days, according to reports that have prompted excitement and concern among local residents.
After weeks of speculation, the Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April. It gave no details on a date or place, citing “security reasons.”
Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet.
The port lies only about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Russia’s short border with North Korea. This proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumored to travel aboard his armored train.
The 35-year-old will be following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il, who met the newly elected Putin in Vladivostok in 2002.
The far eastern city rarely sees major international events, and some locals are happy for the city to be in the spotlight.
“Any visit is good, whether it’s an enemy or a friend,” said Danil, a student at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, billed by the media as a possible venue for the summit.
He welcomed the talks, saying “you can only make decisions through dialogue and communication.”
Nadezhda, a native of the city, said it will be a global event and “will be a boost for development in our city.”
Authorities this week were busy cleaning garbage near railways leading to the city, Russian media reported.
“The depressing view from the train window does not give a positive impression to guests of Vladivostok arriving by train,” an official from the local branch of Russian Railways told the Interfax news agency.
Nadezhda said she was “absolutely not afraid of (North Korea’s) nuclear program” and would like to see the country.
North Korea said this week it was testing nuclear weapons after a round of talks with the US ended in failure.
But Anna Marinina was less enthusiastic about the summit, and said that if Pyongyang did use its weapons, Vladivostok would be in the firing line.
“The people that panic the most about North Korea are safe on the other side of the ocean,” she said.
“If something were to happen, it would fall on us.”
Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.
The last meeting between Russian and North Korean heads of state was in 2011, when Kim’s father traveled by train to Siberia, where he took a boat ride on Lake Baikal and held tightly guarded talks with then president Dmitry Medvedev.
There is a chance however that fresh talks will not take place at all, as Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute.