The Sunday Leader

Death Penalty Not The Solution

  • Rehabilitation more important

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

Capital Punishment is something that is known to everyone in society. Despite being silenced over the last three decades, once again the talk of re-introducing the gallows has been spoken about. The main reason for the widespread public support in favour of capital punishment may have resulted from the horrific and disgusting memories of recent crimes. However, the final power and authority to attest the imposing of the Capital Punishment rests upon the hands of the President. And despite such constitutional privileges, President Maithripala Sirisena has sought the approval of his Cabinet and Parliament to impose the death penalty.

On the other hand His Holiness the Pope has issued a statement requesting the world not to enforce the death penalty. In response to this request Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera has said that the government would not impose the death penalty on anyone. Expressing his views on the matter Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, has also said that Sri Lanka is expected to vote in favour of a resolution brought in at the United Nation’s General Assembly on re-introducing the death penalty.

The Sunday Leader also sought the opinions of several ministers in the government regarding this much debated topic.

Following are excerpts of such comments:


Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, Chandrani Bandara, Ajith Perera, Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Kavinda Jayalath, Hirunika Premachandra, Sajith Premadasa, Rauff Hakeem and Geetha Kumarasinghe

Chandrani BandaraMinister of Women and Children affairs

Since the day I assumed duties of my post I have had to face several sensitive issues. But the gallows is not the answer to these problems. Hirunika has brought in a timely proposition. But society must be actively involved in this dialogue. I do not believe that the death penalty is the answer to reducing crimes. There are lapses in our law. So we must bring reforms to strengthen the legal system. Other issues such as poverty, problems in distribution of resources and hatred are some of the other issues that must be addressed. Everyone has a social responsibility to look into the loop-holes of the law.


Susil Premajayantha – Minister for Science and Technological Research

The death Penalty has been a part of our law for a long time. But it was not carried out. However, after the assassination of Premier S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike the capital punishment was once again imposed. In 1977 When J.R. Jayewardene was in power he allowed the death sentence to be delivered by the courts, but did not sign the execution papers. So, at present even though the death sentence is imposed by the Court, it is not being executed. Hence the convict is given a life sentence instead. In reality after spending some time in jail, some of these convicts are given their freedom under a common amnesty based on good behaviour. So even though the death penalty is active in Sri Lanka, it is not put into operation. Under the narcotics laws the death penalty can be given for certain offences.

When we talk about enforcing capital punishment to reduce the crime wave, we must first evaluate as to whether the death penalty is going to prevent such crimes from happening. And also we must think about other ways of minimising the crime rate. Although capital punishment is laid down by the courts, there is still no considerable depreciation of crimes in Sri Lanka. Here there is a social issue that needs to be addressed. So, we must seek the opinion of intellectuals representing the social, economic, legal and religious sectors on this matter. After conducting such a survey we must build a social dialogue on this issue.


Kavinda Jayalath – UNP MP

There is no problem about enforcing the death penalty. But, what is important is to identify the true culprit from a reliable system. New technology must be brought in to upgrade both our justice system and the police investigations in this regard. Further, it takes a lot of time to finish these trials. So such things must be changed. If we take Seya’s incident for example we see that the police have taken several suspects into custody in a wrong manner. So, it is important to go for a process that involves correct methods of gathering evidence. It is only after straightening areas such as identifying the suspects, investigating the crime, gathering evidence and making observations that we must talk about enforcing the punishment. When we consume a plate of rice there is a big process before eating it. The paddy takes a long process before coming onto our tables as rice. So we must be mindful of the system. We cannot take emotional decisions.


Nalinda Jayatissa – JVP MP

The four sections of law are identifying the suspects, taking them through the legal process, imposing punishments and finally executing them. But, in Sri Lanka, most of the time, these steps are taken in a non-scientific manner. That is the main reason for the mix up of suspects in Seya’s murder. In some instances cases such as this drag on for 10-12 years. The law of our country is inefficient, unfair, un-scientific and biased. So we must reform the procedures of law enforcement institutions, such as the police. Nowhere in this world have the crime rates gone down merely because the death penalty is in operation. Many philosophers have expressed their opinion  on the subject. But, if they think that this is the answer, then that is a myth. The police must be held accountable for the destruction of the schoolboy’s life, who was taken into custody, with regards to Seya’s incident. So, this must be rectified at first.


Hirunika Premachandra – UPFA MP

Crimes cannot be prevented totally at once. But this must happen at some time. The suspect found in Seya’s incident has committed such crimes to small children before. He has even desecrated dead bodies. So the police were not unaware of such things. These criminals suffer from abnormal lust. I would not comment on the law of the country. But the people have a problem about the lack of law enforcement in Sri Lanka. Especially, the role of the police has been criticised. But, I think that through the fear of punishment and the efficiency of law enforcement we would be able to mitigate this issue. If those who are in charge act responsibly then the law could be properly enforced.


Sudarshani Fernandopulle – Deputy Minister for Urban Planning and Water Supply

There is a delay in the implementation of law in our country. Normally, a long time elapses before a judgment is given in a rape case. Sometimes, by that time the victim is married, and having children. So, the best alternative is to opt for a separate court system. It is important to rehabilitate the criminals as well as punishing them. In the case of children there is a big problem concerning their safety. Over 80 per cent of women who have been raped, are below 16 years of age. Hence reproductive health must be made an important subject in our education system. So, I think that it would be suitable to enforce the death penalty even for a limited period of time.


Rauff Hakeem – Minister for Water Supply

There were issues regarding the police all this time. They are always using excessive force and exceeding their limits. Even though laws have been passed against torture, their enforcement has become problematic. So we must look into all these.


Sajith Premadasa – Minister for Housing and Construction

It has been stated that the death penalty is the way to prevent all possible future crimes. But, in many other countries where it is executed, we cannot see any drastic decline of crimes. First, there must be an independent and pure justice system that cannot be influenced by politics. Under the present circumstances it is not suitable to execute the death penalty. And it is also important to provide better constitutional protection for children’s rights. Providing child protection is a social responsibility. There is a role for the parents and family to play in this matter.


Karunaratne Paranavithana – Deputy Minister for Local Government and Provincial Councils 

We are against this decision without any reservations. At present, there are over 1,100 persons, who have been placed on death row. If ten of them are executed every day, then the whole lot would be finished within three months. But, still that would not prevent future crimes from happening. The solution for poverty, illiteracy, sexual stress and disappointment is not the death penalty. There are definite issues with regards to police and justice system. So, we must look in to them. And the media too are an aspect that requires consideration. The social culture has broken down at present. Co-existence has given way to selfishness. If death penalty was given to Angulimala then he would have never obtained enlightenment.


Sisira Jayakody – MEP MP

In a civilised society crimes cannot be prevented merely by enforcing death penalty or other similar acts of torture. These are only primitive methods of punishment. Today there is a demand for such things. An eye to eye and life to life is a primitive way of dispensing justice. We cannot agree to methods based on hatred. There is a problem of punishing the true culprits in our courts. The criminal justice system must be further strengthened. Solutions must be sought for issues such as identifying the suspects, income differences, poverty, family issues and lapses in education.


Duminda Dissanayake – Minister for Agriculture

Many disgusting things have taken place in the society at present. That is why the demand for death penalty has taken shape. The capital punishment is a good solution but the environment that surrounds it is still problematic. We must provide the best solution for the people. For people who have committed serious offences are given bail within three months. And in the same time some cases take years to resolve. What must be done here is increasing the level of punishment. If the punishment is trivial then the people are not afraid of it. But it is important to fix the surrounding facts as well.


Ajith P Perera – Deputy Minister for Power and Energy

Capital Punishment is a comfort for serious murderers and child molesters. This is a quick and painless death. If the criminals are punished, that would set an example for  society, then they must be forced to die slowly by isolating them for the rest of their lives. For this jails are a necessity. Serious punishment must be given for serious crimes. Just because we impose capital punishment it would not reduce crimes.


Prasanna Ranathunga – UPFA MP

Today, public opinion has been formed on the death penalty. The President has also sought the parliament’s opinion on the matter. Minister Samaraweera has claimed that this would not be enforced. It has been upheld by the Justice Minister. Minister Ajith P. Perera is merely passing the ball in this issue. So, at first there must be a common agreement in the government regarding this issue. The existing laws in Sri Lanka are adequate to impose the death penalty. The maximum penalty must be given for some of the crimes that have been committed recently. But, still there is an issue with regards to properly identifying the suspects. So, it is important to have a social dialogue on the subject.


Geetha Kumarasinghe –UPFA MP

When we talk about the gallows first we must talk about the fairness of our law. It is a crime to hang an innocent person for a crime he has not committed. What is important here is to rehabilitate the mind of the criminal. Just because the death penalty is enforced it would not help minimising the number of crimes that are committed in the country. In some states of the United States of America where the death penalty is executed still the crime rates have not gone down. This is not something that can be done with emotions as Hirunika and Ranjan say. The investigation of Seya’s murder has become a drama. Today even the families of some suspects have become destroyed. There is a way out from the law based on mental status. Mistakes could be made even by the hands of people such as Ranjan. Normally, it is the person who is crying out for rights that could fall in to the same pit. Most of the time males who are shouting out against crimes, commit them in the first place. How many MPs are speaking in abusive language inside parliament? So, there is filth in every corner in this country. The President has the sole power to execute this punishment. But, if this is put into operation there is a possibility that it could be used arbitrarily.


2 Comments for “Death Penalty Not The Solution”

  1. tika

    If Bush was in power the Shape Shape sinhala buddhist would have voted for death and made people dispensary of shot the jail birds in cold blood- come that is the tradition of the shape shape buru people.

    Neither the EU nor the softer Scandinavian nations have been able to make rehabilitation a success story. The salvation army is in the forefront for this in europe.
    While your drinking raping, politicking, assaulting monks are not rehabilitating sort.

    For these social workers (grass root used-Elastoplast politicians)
    Its not about getting the job done right but about doing it wrong and giving it the right name all for the foreign paid pay check.

  2. mahinda

    Please do not fool the people you politicians , Srilanka has already agreed and signed the Geneva agreement to do away the death sentence by hanging,The talking subject is to further mislead this ignorant.This will only prevent the public of getting to know the true picture of our dwindling economy.The country economy has taken a 360 degree turn/ .Do not stab at the back who nurtured for forty years Retribution would take its course.

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