To be or not to be?
Thiruni Kelegama & Ishani Ranasinghe
To kill or not to kill is the question. This seems to be
the issue on the minds of many after newspapers showed Interior
Minister John Amaratunga examining the gallows at Welikada Prison.
In reality, the notion that the death penalty is being reintroduced
is misleading. Sri Lanka has never really done away with the death
penalty; for it remains in the statute books; it's just a question
of whether it will be implemented.
The death penalty
has been in abeyance since 1977, because successive presidents declined
to sign the death orders. By law, the President is required to sign
a special warrant after a court has handed down a conviction in
a capital case. Over the years, death sentences have instead been
commuted to life imprisonment.
Sri Lanka is
a Buddhist society which teaches the sanctity of all life, but the
pressure for the return of the death penalty has been mounting over
the country is suffering from a crime wave after a number of gruesome
murders during the last couple of years. This seems to have convinced
many that stronger punishment is needed as a deterrent to crime.
What do young
people in our society feel about the death penalty? The Mirror Magazine
spoke to a cross-section for their views.
a few who agreed that imposing death penalty is not the solution
to the problem.
aged 24, "I feel that those who commit horrendous crimes should
suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives than have an
instant remedy. Therefore, I feel life imprisonment is far better
than the death sentence."
very much against it," says Nalin, a 20-year-old medical student.
"We do not have the right to take away a person's life, we
should instead focus on rehabilitating them."
concurred. "I think it is an inhumane thing to so. It is not
right for us to take a person's life," she said. "Some
people say that it should be done to deter criminals but I am totally
against it. Besides, there is always chance that someone innocent
could be killed."
a person commits a crime, it could be because of a lot of reasons.
It is not always because he wanted to commit the crime," says
Shevanthi, 27, taking a more liberal view. "There is a chance
that the person was provoked or framed or he could be innocent altogether,"
she added. "Because of that, I am not for the death penalty
someone to death is too final. If there is an error, there is no
turning back," says Tharanga, a 24-year-old student. "I
think it is not the way to handle the criminal."
But there are
also the others who feel that the capital punishment should be implemented.
that she is for the death penalty. "I think we should just
hang them. If they take some one else's life, they deserve to lose
theirs," is what this 21-year-old felt.
the death penalty should be there, but only for the hardcore criminals,"
says Sanjay (25). "The punishment should make them realise
the gravity of the crimes they committed."
wave is ever rising here. A single day doesn't go by without there
being some sort of a murder reported," says Harshi (26). "This
is because these criminals know that the law is not going to come
down hard on them. So I think we should re-implement the death penalty."
does a grave damage they should suffer the consequences. Sentencing
them to death might look cruel but it would prevent others from
committing crimes," says Gayan, 21.
So the debate
goes on. Many think capital punishment is justifiable but is taking
another human life acceptable? We live in a country where we strongly
advocate forgiveness, compassion and love for all human beings.
Then where does the death penalty fit in?
is not the time"
The death penalty is definitely
a much-debated issue in recent times. Dr. Nalin Swaris, human
rights advocate gave us an insight into why it is so. "The
claim that the death penalty has acted as a deterrent does
not hold any water," he says. He explains the legal system
in the United States of America where 38 states have the death
penalty while 12 do not. But there isn't statistical evidence
to show that the homicide rates in those 38 states are lower
than in the 12 states that do not have the death penalty.
went on to say that in the case of implementation of the death
penalty, it should be discussed in general in relation to
the social and political climate of the country.
"With the ceasefire in progress, now is the time for
self examination. It is important to realise the social and
historic roots of the violence that plagued the country. Now
is not the time for the death penalty to be re-implemented."
Dr. Nalin Swaris is a retired senior lecturer in social philosophy
at a college of social works in the Netherlands.
I'm a 19-year-old girl from Kurunegala. I'm writing to you
because I have no one to ask for advice. From my younger days, I
have been good in studies. I passed my scholarship exam and O/L
exam with flying colours. I sat the A/L exam in 2002 but unfortunately,
I didn't qualify for University entrance. I'm studying to re-sit
the exam again. Compared with other students, I have a really good
level of general knowledge. I watch the news channels and read the
papers everyday. In school, I have participated in many quiz competitions.
My problem is that I'm sick of having to repeat my subjects all
over again. Can't I find a job or programme where I can make use
of my general knowledge skills? What kind of fields can make use
of my knowledge? Please help.
Dear Fedup Rose,
There are countless opportunities for you in the media field
and what's more, you can opt to work part-time until you re-sit
your examination. I know, studying all over again is agonising but
it will be worth it. Don't give up your studies. Do a part-time
job while you continue your studies. Compile a file with copies
of all your certificates and create a CV with a detailed list of
your achievements. Make a list of firms that you want to contact.
Call and ask a relevant authority whether they have any vacancies
or send in your details by mail. Don't be discouraged if things
don't work out at once. They rarely do. Persevere and you'll achieve
I'm a 20-year-old girl and I've been having a relationship
with a 26-year-old man. My sister, his brother and his friends are
the only people who know of this. Our biggest fear is that our families
might not agree to our relationship, because of the differences
in our families. I could go ahead and talk to my father about this
but I want my elder siblings to marry before I do. My boyfriend
is getting proposal after proposal and he's refusing each and every
one. I'm afraid that he might give me up and agree to one of the
proposals. I'm also afraid that a marriage between us might create
problems between our families. We need each other but there's no
one to help us. My father brought a marriage proposal for me but
I refused. Everyone in my family will be pleased if I marry the
guy my father found. My mother died a long time ago. So there's
no one to give any advice. I hope you can help.
Your father just brought you a
proposal, in other words, he wants you to get settled. If you can
speak to him, what's preventing you from confiding in him about
your affair? Sooner the better, at least you'll put his mind at
rest. Differences such as social status, caste etc. are issues conjured
up by society. It only becomes a problem when you make it so. It
won't be easy, society has a nasty habit of flinging mud at people.
But you can't live your life according to the whims and fancies
of others. So make a decision and stick to it. If you want to be
together, then do so. Your boyfriend is 26 years old. He's old enough
to tell his parents whom he wants to marry. Instead of simply refusing
the proposals, it's time he told his parents the truth. Once everyone
knows, there might be less pressure to marry you off. It won't be
smooth sailing but if you truly love each other, you can work things
Dear K.S.S.G (Letter withheld on request),
Well, you've got to make a choice.
Suffer in silence or reveal your feelings and accept the consequences.
I doubt he has a girl but make a few discreet inquiries all the
same. As you say, he may suspect your feelings for him and want
to play it safe. If he's scared of his parents, he might never take
the initiative. By popping the question you'll only succeed in scaring
him off. What's the rush? You have his friendship, why not get to
know each other better until he's of an age where he can make his
own decisions. Then again, he doesn't seem to be very bold. He might
enjoy your friendship but never be bold enough to take the risk
of getting into his parents' bad books. So watch out or you'll end
up with a broken heart.
I'm a 16-year-old boy who is interested in a girl. Ever since
she came to school, I have admired her. I have tried everything
but haven't been able to get hold of her phone number yet. Please
help me Coz, what should I do?
She's in school. Surely you can
think of some excuse to speak to her. Go ahead and make an opportunity
to talk to her. You can start off a simple conversation by asking
her if she's misplaced something like a book that you happened to
find. You can even join the same society or club she's involved
in and spend some time getting to know her. Don't rush things and
scare her away. Take things slow and steady. All the best!