Death Penalty in Sri Lanka: Who deserves to be put to death?

This government loves to keep the people busy by regularly throwing issues to keep them busy. These are excellent methods to divert people’s attention from the real issues that questions the governments inefficiency. We’ve had a string of such public diversions – New York Times, Wijayakala and now it’s the death sentence.


When the subject of death sentence arose only people remembered to claim Sri Lanka as a majority Buddhist nation. Undoubtedly that is true, in ancient times the Kings followed the dasa raja dhamma concept – what was applicable to all was also applicable to him. The level of crime was certainly not what is seen today. If anyone was found stealing he was duly punished – there were no lawyers to argue & find some loophole to save the culprit & certainly none of the crimes that exist today, existed then.


Every nation has some form of judiciary with courts, judges, lawyers & judgements. But how far have these been deterrents for non-repetition is questionable. Everywhere crime is not only increasing but the types of crimes are shocking. How often have the wrong persons being put behind bars? Why should the man caught stealing be hanged when he was part of a larger group where the main culprit runs a crime syndicate & tells his group what to steal & from whom? Who is then the bigger culprit? How far has money helped to ensure the wrong doers are not sentenced. How fair have these decisions been. If the legal profession is corrupt can bringing death penalty solve anything?


We are living in a very confused environment. We presume we are being led by a government we elect but in reality the government is being ruled by sets of invisible people to whom no laws are applicable. They commit the biggest crimes but they never end up getting caught or punished. In such an environment how fair or moral is it to hang the small sprat while the sharks get away & feel happy that death penalty serves its purpose? According to the FBI, the annual cost of street crime in US is $15 billion compared to nearly $1 trillion for white-collar crime, but who end up in prison?


Recently, the news showcased people getting rigorous imprisonment & fine for stealing biscuits /mangoes but then people who have masterminded bigger crimes get away because of loopholes in laws or because they have the money to retain the most experienced & most expensive lawyers who know how to wriggle out of a sentence. How morally correct is the law in such instances & would such not encourage hatred & distrust in the system whereby already people are beginning to feel the law is applicable only to the small man & the rich get away with anything.


America is the only Western country that has death penalty. In US, 31 states have death penalty, 19 states don’t. Close to 1500 people have been executed since 1977.  But in the states that death penalty prevails, crime rates have not reduced as a result of putting people to death? It is said that in California since 1978 to execute someone it costs the state $4b with the legal process taking 25 years. Executions costs more than a life time in prison!


And what about sending the wrong people into prison or even to death?

In the US since 1989 there have been over 2000 exonerations – 22% exonerated by DNA evidence, 19% exonerated after their death – 4.1% of defendants who are sentenced to death in the United States are later shown to be innocent!


The United States of America and Canada actually have the highest overall crime rates in the world. In India more than 33,000 rapes were reported in 2014.


How can we live with the fact that the system has sent innocent people to death? That life can never be brought back to life!


No criminal system anywhere in the world is or can be 100% perfect. If people claim it to be then they are living in some different planet.


Globally, 53 countries have death penalty.

Ironically, inspite of the West boasting of its good governance system Japan & Singapore are the 2 countries with the world’s lowest crime rates. Certainly the lower end crimes are non-existent primarily because everyone has a job & money to support themselves so petty crimes such as theft & robberies are more or less non-existent. However, white-collar crimes are increasing in Singapore. In a 2018 global financial secrecy index, which rated nations for factors including illicit money flows and tax haven status, Singapore ranked fifth — behind Switzerland, the U.S., Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. With globalization we are now dealing


If the argument that people who commit grave crimes must be punished… then why punish only some, how come those who commit graver crimes are overlooked? A crime done by one against one is nothing compared to a crime masterminded by one, carried out by many affecting thousands of people!


Today’s illegal drugs, such as marijuana, opium, heroin etc have been used for thousands of years for both medical and spiritual purposes. In the case of narcotics/drugs – Who are the manufacturers, the suppliers & doesn’t the drug dealers come way after that initial supply chain? Will eliminating one or two drug dealers end the chain? Wouldn’t the dead dealer be replaced with another & business goes on as usual? Shouldn’t the main or the root of the curse be eliminated not the pawns? An estimated 230 million people around the world are drug-users. Of those, some 27 million are considered to be dependent or drug addicts.


More recently Johnson & Johnson was fined $4.7billion in a lawsuit that linked its baby powder with cancer – millions of people the world over uses its products but if they have caused cancer then what should their judgment be against the company & its owners who have caused cancer in millions of people? Similarly, our food is being poisoned with all types of chemicals from which many end up suffering all types of health issues – diabetes, blood pressure, cancers etc… what should happen to the owners of these food industries who are purposely & knowingly poisoning us for profit?


The world’s biggest arms manufacturers are manufacturing weapons for profits as such they need conflicts to sell arms, often to both sides of the conflict, these arms end up killing innocent lives – shouldn’t these entities also be duly punished for their crimes? We often go behind the terrorists but who funds them, who trains them, who drugs them & who supplies them arms – are these not the bigger culprits while the same can be said of those who provide oxygen to these terrorists because it provides a means of income to them. Isn’t treason far greater a crime than drug dealing? Who are guilty of treason at least in the public tribunal as people are better judges of traitors of the country than the system as often the system is controlled by the culprits who have nicely placed ‘their’ people so that their crimes never get the gavel of justice.


What about the human smuggling industry – the transportation of economic migrants often causing complete demographic change – who are the culprits behind these crimes & why do they evade sentencing? Then we have a plethora of sex crimes, paedophilia all associated with cults & other satanic practices but most often it is the elite circles who are involved in these sadistic crimes and it is hardly likely they would end up getting the noose. Should the death penalty be only for some exonerating the bigger criminals?


Often it is those who commit the crimes who stand in judgement. This refers to all of the former colonies who have yet to account for their heinous crimes committed on indigenous nations for 500 years, ironically it is these same countries that are illegally invading & bombing countries & now they are using drones to do the dirty work. How come those who issue these directives that leave thousands of innocent people dead are not hung too? Those who argue that death penalty is a closure must explain then what about closure for the innocent people whose lives were nullified by geopolitically motivated bombing campaigns (Iraq, Afghanistan, Serbia, Libya, Syria just to name a few)


People must be aware of the ground realities instead of being mesmerized with the concept that seeing a criminal executed is proof that there is a system & the system has worked while the system is non-active against the bigger criminals.


As humans we all make mistakes – some make bigger mistakes than others while there are others whose mistakes are cleverly hidden. Humans can never be compartmentalized. People’s thinking changes with every second. People are complicated. However, the power of law & law enforcement comes in its ability to dish out the law without bias. That does not happen anywhere in the world & that is the reality. With the west controlling the world media, they often decide what we are to believe & not believe & often the minds of people are brainwashed into thinking the West to be superior to that of others.


For starters a country must have a clear law & that law must be applicable to all equally. A theft by a poor cannot be any worse than a theft committed by the rich. A sex/drug crime committed by the poor cannot get death sentence while the same crime committed by the rich ends up with a loophole excusing his crime. We have seen of late how a man who raped & killed a school girl was released by a Minister who is now wailing about the rise in rapes in her area!


Returning to Sri Lanka, the death penalty for the drug dealers is hardly likely to stop the flow of drugs into Sri Lanka, its distribution or the crafty ways in which it is spread to gullible & innocent people who end up the addicts. Ironically, whether a drug addict is rich or poor, that family is devastated for life. Illegal drug industry is not the only criminal syndicate in Sri Lanka or anywhere else in the world – there are a plethora of illegal transnational crimes, trace the trail & we will be surprised that the same crime syndicate are controlling & manipulating the supply chain – unless these are dealt with there is little point in putting people to death & feeling happy that justice has been served. Once any drug dealer is arrested or put in prison either he continues inside in prison or he is easily replaced by others. We have seen how even financial criminals inside prisons are operating with duplicate sim phones …. therefore where is this justice people are boasting off?




Shenali D Waduge

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