- They agreed on one thing and did another. I also came to know through the media the following day
- I know Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera will be opposed to this idea. Yet, we have to implement it
President Maithripala Sirisena was outraged at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting for keeping him in the dark about the move for the upward revision of fuel prices last week. First, the decision was taken at a meeting attended by the President last Thursday to revise the prices in conformity with the pricing formula adopted for the purpose. Accordingly, the prices were to be increased effective from last Friday. Within a few hours of the price hike coming into effect, it was rescinded after the intervention by the President.
The President divulged the reason for his action at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
A visibly incensed President Sirisena reprimanded the Finance Ministry officials at the Cabinet meeting. He said the Treasury officials agreed to raise prices by six or seven rupees, but, in contract, they had done so by eight and nine rupees.
“They agreed on one thing and did another. I also came to know through the media the following day,” the President said.
As an initial step, the President suggested the execution of death row criminals found to be operating drug cartels from behind bars with the covert or overt support of the prison authorities
After Tuesday’s meeting, the President, however, met with all the stakeholders and endorsed the proposed price hikes that came into effect finally yesterday, despite initial anger.
This is yet another incident that bespeaks the absence of coherent and cohesive approach in solving problems by the government. Most of the time, the President is unaware of what is transpiring. So, he deposes what the Ministers propose on some occasions. The entire government is demeaned in the public eye as a result.
Capital punishment, an uphill task for Govt
In addition, at the same Cabinet meeting, the President drew his attention to the rising crime wave in the country, particularly the incidents of drug trafficking. The President appeared to have realized that the current forms of punishment for such offences were not deterrent enough. Therefore, he proposed to re-introduce the execution of those sentenced to death. Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Sri Lanka. However, there have been no executions since June 23, 1976, although death sentences were handed down continuously by the High and Supreme Courts for murder and drug trafficking convictions. In fact, these sentences are automatically commuted to life in prison. In certain instances, the death sentences on some criminals were commuted to life through lawful means based on recommendations by a committee appointed to look into it in 2014.
According to the Department of Prisons, there are over 1000 prisoners on the death row at the moment in Sri Lanka.
The President, making his remarks to the Cabinet, said at least those convicted to death for drug related offences, should be punished by death. “I know Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera will be opposed to this idea. Yet, we have to implement it,” he said.
For an execution of any convicted criminal to be carried out, the President has to sanction it in keeping with the legal provisions stipulated in this regard. Be that as it may, successive Presidents declined to do it, virtually putting an end to capital punishment in the country.
The President himself proposed the idea this time to execute those sentenced to death, departing from the attitudes of his predecessors. The Cabinet Ministers also endorsed the views expressed by the President. As an initial step, the President suggested the execution of death row criminals found to be operating drug cartels from behind bars with the covert or overt support of the prison authorities.
In essence, there is no barrier for the implementation of the capital punishment if the President is ready to sanction it. Now, the President has made his stance known to the country. Most Cabinet Ministers also agreed with him. Then, it is just a matter for the President to walk the talk if he really means what he said.
Let alone, there is a strong lobby in the western world against the death sentence being implemented anywhere in the world. The countries that persist with death penalty have come under severe criticism from those lobbying groups at the international forums such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Influential personalities of this government also view human rights from a western point of view. As such, the President’s move is bound to encounter hurdles from within his own government. Already, Sri Lanka is in the international spotlight due to the UNHRC resolution adopted in 2015 calling for probes into the alleged rights violations during the war time. Against this backdrop, it will be an uphill task to re-introduce capital punishment though the President wants it. However, if the President is strong-willed, this will not be a difficult task, though.
Wijithamuni to join UNP?
The mainstream political forces are now active in view of the Presidential Election scheduled to be conducted at the end of next year. Though the elections are yet to be declared, the political atmosphere is suffused with rhetoric associated with the elections. Wide perception built around the possible candidacy of former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is the starting point of this political debate.
The Joint Opposition that supports him carried out propaganda work by conducting seminars and other meetings. Alongside, the UNP, as the ruling party, has already started its political criticism directed at Gotabhaya. So, the country is in an election mood once again.
New political alignments are also likely. Some of the SLFP MPs serving in the govt are slated to join the UNP ahead of any national elections
Ahead of the elections, new political alignments are also likely. Some of the SLFP MPs serving in the government are slated to join the UNP ahead of any national election, according to political sources. That Fisheries Minister Gamini Wijith Wijeyamuni Zoysa spoke supportive of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at a recent event in Bibile, Monaragala is a clear indication of his readiness to switch political allegiance to him during election times.
“We are the ones who protected the Prime Minister when there was the no confidence motion against him,” he said.
Vasu questions absence of SLFP MPs
The leaders of the Joint Opposition met with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the chair. However, anyone from the 16-member group of the SLFP had not been invited. Democratic Left Front leader MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara questioned it. The former President said he would invite them to attend the future meetings.
Anyone from the 16-member group of the SLFP had not been invited for the meeting with MR