ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is set to end a 42-year moratorium on capital punishment by ordering the hangings of drug offenders as part of his plan to reduce narcotics-related crime.
Sirisena would join the ranks of United States, North Korea, China and Singapore, among others, to implement the death penalty.
“From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences,” government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said at the weekly cabinet press conference on Wednesday.
“The President told the cabinet yesterday that he was ready to sign the death warrants of repeat drug offenders.”
Sirisena will not stop at signing death warrants. He will take the drug war to the streets with the deployment of troops and wants to replicate the notorious “Philippine success” in dealing with narcotics.
“We were told that the Philippines has been successful in deploying the army and dealing with this problem. We will try to replicate their success,” Senaratne said.
It is not clear how the military will be deployed, but already the para military Special Task Force (STF) of the police, has been involved in anti-drug operations where some suspects have died in questionable circumstances.
Senaratne said the latest haul of heroin brought into the country was arranged by a man sentenced to death for a drug charge. He had arranged the shipment of over 100 kilos while being behind bars.
The minister did not say anything about the need to clean up the prisons and end corruption within the correctional services of the country, but the president’s response is to hang 19 drug offenders who are currently in death row.
Sri Lanka has commuted death penalty to a term of live imprisonment since 1976 when the last execution was carried out.
President J. R. jayaewardene and his successors had refused to sign death warrants leading to a moratorium on capital punishment. But Senaratne said President Sirisena was being bold unlike his predecessors.
There were no details on how the military will be deployed for a Philippines-style anti-narcotics operations. The Manila government has said that more than 4,200 suspects have been killed as part of the war on drugs that is the centrepiece of Duterte's administration.
In May last year, police seized 200 kilos of heroin after unidentified gunmen shot dead an anti-narcotics agent near Colombo. Four years earlier in 2013, some 260 kilos (572 pounds) were taken off the street.
It is suspected that drugs are smuggled by boat into Sri Lanka from neighbouring India. Police believe the Indian Ocean island is being used as a transit point by traffickers.
In 2016, anti-narcotics authorities seized 90 kilos of cocaine concealed in sugar containers from Brazil. Two months earlier police detained 14 foreigners after seizing 110 kilos of heroin worth $7.5 million from an Iranian fishing trawler. (COLOMBO, July 11, 2018)