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.