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Sirisena pushes for hardline policy against drug trafficking, Sri Lanka looks for hangmen

Newspaper ad for hangmen wanted in Sri Lanka. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 13, 2019, 03.47 PM (IST)

As Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena is pushing for a hardline policy to combat drug trafficking, the country began advertising for hangmen this week in local newspapers.

An advertisement published in the state-run Daily News on Monday put the monthly pay at 36,310 rupees ($203.99), which would be above average for a government job.

According to the advertisement, candidates should be Sri Lankan, male, aged between 18 and 45, and have both "excellent moral character" and "mental strength".

In a move inspired by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, Sirisena last week had said that he wants to resume the use of capital punishment for drug traffickers in the next few months "even if there are protests".

"On the basis of the reports currently available, we will very likely be able to implement the death penalty in the next few months. I have taken a firm decision to do so, even if there are protests," Sirisena said in Parliament.

Drug trafficking is a capital offence in Sri Lanka although no one has been executed for any crime in the country since 1976 as all death penalties have been commuted to life in prison since then.

The last execution in Sri Lanka was 43 years ago.

Sri Lanka's last hangman quit in 2014 without ever having to execute anyone, citing stress after seeing the gallows for the first time. Another hired last year never turned up for work. Anticipating that capital punishment could soon be used again, the prison service is hurrying to recruit two executioners.

During a state visit to the Philippines in January, Sirisena had praised President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs triggering an international condemnation from human rights groups.

Duterte's crackdown on drug traffickers has resulted in thousands of people being killed in encounters with police.

According to a report by Reuters, Police killed at least 5,000 suspected drug dealers since 2016, although activists say the number could be far higher and they dispute official accounts that the killings were all in self-defence.

(With inputs from news agencies)

Story highlights

In a move inspired by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, Sirisena last week had said that he wants to resume the use of capital punishment for drug traffickers in the next few months 'even if there are protests'.