ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s opposition leader Sajith Premadasa wants the death penalty imposed on charges pertaining to terrorism and drug-trafficking, à la Singapore.
“Singapore gives the best penalties for terrorism and drug trafficking. We will not deviate from that position, but the judicial process must be transparent, fair and free of influence,” Premadasa said Wednesday (28) morning.
He was speaking to reporters outside the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters in Colombo where main opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Harin Fernando was being questioned over a speech Fernando had made on the 2019 Easter bombings.
Related: Sri Lanka opposition MP Harin Fernando summoned to CID over Easter attack speech
Rather than punishing proven terrorists, said Premadasa, the government wants to pay for their upkeep with taxpayer money.
“Is this the solution our country has for those proven to have carried out terrorist activities?” he said.
Sri Lanka has an ongoing de facto moratorium on capital punishment that goes back 45 years, with the last execution carried out in 1976.
Hundreds have been sentenced to death since then, though the punishment has not been carried out.
Plans by former President Maithriapala Sirisena to reinstate capital punishment in June 2019 were met with widespread criticism both locally and internationally.
“Sri Lanka’s plan to resume use of the death penalty is a major setback for human rights,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of the Human Rights Watch in June 30 2019.
“Sri Lanka has been a bulwark against capital punishment in Asia for more than four decades, yet now the Sirisena government wants to throw in its lot with less rights-respecting regimes,” he said.
President Sirisena ordered the execution of four convicted drug traffickers, but the Supreme Court in October 2019 extended a previous interim order on the death penalty, effectively preventing the then president’s attempt.
Premadasa, who was a prominent minister in Sirisena’s Yahapalana government though of the then rival United National Party (UNP), publicly expressed his support for the reinstatement of capital punishment in Sri Lanka.
As recently as October 2020, the SJB leader called it an “urgent need” of the hour.
An Amnesty International factsheet on capital punishment notes that evidence from around the world has shown that the death penalty has no unique deterrent effect on crime. Citing studies in the USA and Candada, Amnesty International said there is no evidence to support the claim that abolishing the death penalty leads to higher crime rates.
“In 2004 in the USA, the average murder rate for states that used the death penalty was 5.71 per 100,000 of the population as against 4.02 per 100,000 in states that did not use it. In 2003 in Canada, 27 years after the country abolished the death penalty the murder rate had fallen by 44 per cent since 1975, when capital punishment was still enforced. Far from making society safer, the death penalty has been shown to have a brutalizing effect on society. State sanctioned killing only serves to endorse the use of force and to continue the cycle of violence,” the report said. (Colombo/Jul28/2021)