A Presidential War on Narcotics

On Monday, April 1st, President Maithripala Sirisena watched the destruction of nearly 800 kilograms of cocaine, in a suburb close to Colombo.  He also had the country take an oath to rid the country of drugs.

This is not the first time that a large haul of narcotics was incinerated in public. A similar event took place in January 2018 as well.

Perhaps to shore up his failing popularity, President Maithripala Sirisena who has vowed to rid the country of drugs, is also determined to use the death penalty as a deterrent.    His plan to have those found guilty of the crime executed has met with protests both within and outside the country.  In July last year, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka wrote to the President requesting him not to go ahead with his plan to re-introduce executions  will not  resolve the issue of drug trafficking.  The last judicial hanging in Sri Lanka took place in 1976.

“There is no reason to bring the death penalty back to Sri Lanka after a four-decade moratorium,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “President Sirisena’s decision to restore the death penalty because he was inspired by the Philippine’s murderous ‘drug war’ may be the worst possible justification and would violate international law.”    Human Rights Watch concerns were also echoed by Amnesty International with its South Asia Director, Biraj Patnaik stating that “There is no evidence that implementing the death penalty will end drug-related crime. Executions are never a solution. Indeed, they may result in people being put to death following unfair trials. The death penalty is also a punishment that disproportionately affects people from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds.”

Since the President’s announcement to rid the country of narcotics, law enforcement officers have been, almost on a daily basis, seizing large hauls of drugs.  There is a strong belief that Sri Lanka acts as a transit hub for narcotics in the Asian region.

Meanwhile, the government is in the process of interviewing suitable candidates to take on the post of hangman.

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