How to solve the current death penalty conundrum I read with interest, several articles and statements issued by human rights defenders, civil organisations and some of the countries in the ‘western bloc’, on the subject of the ‘death penalty’ which appears to have disturbed a hornet nest both locally and internationally in the wake of [...]


Letters to the Editor


How to solve the current death penalty conundrum

I read with interest, several articles and statements issued by human rights defenders, civil organisations and some of the countries in the ‘western bloc’, on the subject of the ‘death penalty’ which appears to have disturbed a hornet nest both locally and internationally in the wake of Sri Lanka’s decision to reactivate the death penalty. Almost all of them have tried to justify the abolition of death penalty in general on grounds of  a)Absence of evidence to prove the deterrent effect of imposing death penalty, b) prevailing loopholes and delays in the existing legal systems, c) Deemed unethical practice of Governments robbing the right to life of human beings and  d) mistakes of judgment by the judiciary in regard to individuals involved  in homicide triggered by personal conflicts.

One article quoted prison officials saying most on Death Row were stressed, and that there was no evidence in Sri Lanka or any part of the world that the death penalty has prevented or reduced crimes. One can never find concrete statistical evidence to prove the point beyond doubt, as the deterrent effect of the death penalty at the outset operates in the mindset of hundreds and thousands of potential killers who surely would have been compelled to give up their devious plans to assassinate human beings. A net increase in murder crimes can happen due to demographic reasons.

Perpetrators of ‘Suicide Bombing’ and ‘serial killers’ who have repeatedly robbed the right of life of several innocents, should not be allowed the right of life as they pose an insurmountable threat to peaceful society at large. In my view, those charged for drug related crimes are also de-facto ‘Serial killers.’

We meekly take for granted super powers like USA, Russia, Japan, India and most of the oil rich Middle-East countries who continue to have the death penalty in their law books. What kinds of embargoes are imposed on them? It is grossly unfair for developed countries to link economic support schemes such as GSP + in developing countries to issues like death penalty. The death penalty in the law books will greatly reduce extra-judicial killings such as those that happened during the 1971 and 1989 insurrections as well as state-driven terrorism in Sri Lanka. We cannot overlook global examples in the extra-judicial killings of Osama Bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi!

Taking the foregoing into consideration I venture to suggest the following strategic steps to solve the current death penalty conundrum in Sri Lanka.

  •  Continue the existing moratorium on death penalty.
  •  Exceptions to the existing moratorium to be struck on death sentences to be passed from a specified future date until further notice in regard to the following categories:
  •  Perpetrators of mass ‘Suicide bombings’,
  •  Big time drug-traffickers ( a definition has to be evolved to exempt small scale culprits) and
  •  Serial killers.

(This means all those presently in death row will continue to enjoy the moratorium.)

Concurrence of the concerned international community should be obtained for the above exceptions, the currency of which can be reviewed annually with a view to annulling them as early as possible.

In short, the proposal shall operate as a temporary measure to create a deterrent impact (however small), on the aforesaid categories of killers.

Bernard Fernando   Moratuwa

The story of Lanka and when the rot began   

Since I am one of the longest surviving Ceylonese, now 88 +, I can say with certainty, how this pearl of the Indian Ocean was transformed  into this corrupt den of thieves, unknown and unfelt by its citizens in just over 70 years.

Six million people, lived happily, some working as labourers in the port, helping manually to unload and load bullock carts with firewood and cinnamon sticks making an honest living for themselves. Vendors  pushing three wheel carts selling fresh rotti and beef curry, women in Kochikade in front of the harbour selling hot, hot rice and curry, for the labourers. Farmers went about their business, sowing and harvesting,coconut pluckers, rubber tappers, all making their small contribution to the economy.In the tea estates, the best tea in the world was plucked.  The estates were maintained and looked like a green carpet. After 1956 our expectations were blown to cinders. Tea, coconut and rubber plantations were taken over on an acreage basis, but politicians manipulated this as well.

The management was in a muddle, though the government tried many methods to keep these plantations going. But choosing politically aligned companies to arrest the decline of the plantation  sector, never worked. Even today many large estates are crying for help.

Then came the change in the political scenario. We had parliamentary elections, with a handful of parties.

Then in crept the third class politicians. Step by step, they found ways of making money, giving plum contracts to their buddies all in exchange for money, appointments on a political yardstick. They started by dismantling the “loyal, educated, civil service’’ that had hitherto needed a  minimum of a second class degree for entry.

The honourable class that ran the government machinery (the senior executives were all civil servants, government agents, heads in the customs, inland revenue) was lost.

With one stroke the government created the so-called administrative service of second class administrators politically picked, and that is the Sri Lanka of today.

Please bring back Ceylon.

Walter Fernando   Via email

Janaposha:  Let the good work continue

While working at the very busy District General Hospital at Matara, when poor patients required a surgical item that wasn’t available at the hospital and which the patient couldn’t afford to buy on his/her own, all I had to do was to make a request to the Matara Bodhi (main Buddhist temple) and the required item was swiftly provided. No questions asked about race or caste of the patient. This is how it should be. This is the Buddhism I know.

It is therefore sad to see a charity such as Janaposha, which provided a clean, hot meal to poor patients of ALL races, at three large Colombo hospitals being forced to suspend its services due to security fears over baseless allegations. The fact that this is a Muslim owned organisation should not have led to the disruption of its significant and much appreciated service.

The poor are the hardest hit. Our leaders need to back such charities in the face of extremist elements. Providing basic security to carry out its good work is all that is required. Feeding the poor is not just a privilege only, it is an obligation.

Dr.Imtiaz Ismail   Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila

Even in death we are apart!

I agree that we are a 75% Sinhala Buddhist nation, but it is equally important to state that we are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. I encourage my students to state these terms when they want to write an essay on ‘My country’.

The word ‘race’ should be deleted when filling forms for important documents and in my opinion substitute this with the word, ‘identity’ and the answer should be Sri Lankan.

Even in death we seem to be divided, look at our cemeteries, different sections for Catholics, Anglicans, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims etc.

Valerie Y. Davidson   Mount Lavinia

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