Sri Lanka seems to be a very unsafe country at present given that killings are taking place rampantly. Just a few days ago Independent Group Colombo Municipal Councillor Krishnapillai Thirubanandan was shot by unidentified gunmen in Pettah. He became the fifth victim to be killed in a shooting incident in the recent past. Later it was revealed that Thirubanandan had a history associated with drug dealings.
A good number of these shooting incidents are related to the drug trade. As a follow-up to these incidents President Maithripala Sirisena has instructed Prisons Reforms Minister Thalatha Athukorala to prepare a draft bill to implement the death penalty. The decision to be bring back the death penalty received Cabinet approval. Some sections of the media reported that this decision to send wrong doers to the gallows had received the approval of the Maha Sangha.
The drug trade in Sri Lanka has a long history, but none of the previous Governments did anything significant to eradicate this menace. We have from time to time heard of powerful ministers having a hand in this illegal trade. Given this past it’s commendable that this unity Government has been bold to slap drug dealers with the death penalty in the near future.
Drugs, the underworld and contract killings are interwoven. The ministerial hands in this equation made the eradicating of this culture impossible. Many believe that the death penalty should also be the punishment for rape and domestic violence that leads to killings.
Just a few days ago we heard of the killing of songstress Priyani Jayasinghe. It is alleged that she was stabbed to death by her husband, who is now in custody.
Sri Lanka harps on being a Buddhist country. But all these unsavory incidents make the outside world think whether the island’s citizens have understood the fundamentals of Buddhism. Despite media reports stating that some members of the Buddhist clergy had supported the bringing back of the death penalty, it is interesting to see what the powerful Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters have to say about this. It goes without saying that the Buddhist clergy of this country have a huge say in implementing such a law which in a way goes against Gautama Buddha’s teachings and the practice of ‘ahimsa’-non-violence.
But the patience of right thinking people of this country are running thin. They’ve seen and heard of enough killings and shootings and are concerned whether the next generation would be safe living in these conditions. The majority of the citizens are most likely say yes to the death penalty, which should not be restricted to drug dealings, but must be extended to killings that occur as a result of domestic violence.
The death penalty was abolished by the former Premier SWRD Bandaranaike in 1956. But it was reintroduced in 1959 following his assassination. The United National Party modified the use of the death penalty in 1978. Since then any execution to be carried out needed the approval of the President. The last execution in Sri Lanka took place in 1976.
In this context it is important to note that former President Chandrika Kumaratunga had wanted to start the old practice of sending wrong doers to the gallows in 2004. What really prompted the then Kumaratunga Government to habour such thoughts was the killing of High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya. President Kumaratunga failed to bring in the use of the gallows because of public dissent. The death sentence was never removed from the Statute Books and any death sentence handed since 1976 has been converted to a lifetime sentences in prison.
The period after 18th May 2009 has been dotted with violence, murder and an increase in drug related incidents. We even heard of a monk being shot and injured in the holy city of Kataragama.
It’s high time that the authorities of this country establish a culture where human beings respect others of their kind.