Prisons Dept seeks two hangmen as 18 sit on death row | Sunday Observer

Prisons Dept seeks two hangmen as 18 sit on death row

Sri Lanka’s Prison Department is planning to hire two hangmen following a controversial decision by President Maithripala Sirisena to implement the death penalty on those convicted of repeat drug offences. Currently,around 18 prisoners sit on death row.

“The job advertisements calling for applications for the two positions of hangmen will be placed next week. We have already sent the list of prisoners on death row to the Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms,” Prison Media Spokesman , Thushara Upuldeniya told the Sunday Observer.

Although Sri Lanka has not executed a prisoner since 1976, the President’s decision to end the island’s moratorium on capital punishment comes amidst calls for a tough approach in combating the increase in drug-related crimes.

While criminals are regularly given death sentences for murder, rape and drug-related crimes, their punishments have been commuted to life.

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in a letter to President Sirisena yesterday, urged him to reconsider his decision to lift the moratorium on the death penalty, saying it violated a person’s right to life and freedom from cruel and degrading punishment. In her letter to President Sirisena, HRCSL Chairperson Dr Deepika Udugama noted that the death penalty was an extreme and irrevocable punishment, had proven ineffective in curbing serious crime, adding that the Commission had already recommended abolishing the practice in a recommendation in 2016. The Commission believes a more effective way to curb drug related criminal activity would be strict enforcement of the law against offenders, and severe punishment that will be strictly enforced, rather than the death penalty, Dr Udugama’s letter to the President noted. “It is the observation of the Commission that there is strong support for the implementation of the death penalty among some sections of society. The Commission observes that this support stems from an erosion of public confidence in the justice system,” the letter added. HRCSL said that despite the death penalty remaining on Sri Lanka’s statute books, the moratorium on executions since 1976 had garnered praise from around the world. The Commission urged the President to revoke his decision and implement a long-term policy to combat drug-related criminal activity. Meanwhile, upon hearing about the Government’s decision to restore the death penalty, prisoners on death row have shown signs of being severely rattled, and have been prone to illness as a result of the tension, fearing possible execution, according to authoritative prison sources.

“They are going through a serious mental breakdown. Some of them have complained of stomach aches and have been prone to retching and vomiting while others are suffering from high blood pressure, high sugar, headache and other illnesses,” sources from Welikada said.

It is learnt that among the 18 prisoners on death row in Welikada, four are Pakistani nationals.

The Government still officially employs a state executioner, but since 2014 all three hangmen who have filled the post have quit after short stints at the vacant gallows.

Lewis Singho and his brother, Paulis Singho who occupied the position of hangmen during the 1970’s were succeeded by Ranjith Wijetunge. By 1976, the death penalty was suspended. In 2001, Sumedha Wijetunge, the son of Ranjith Wijetunge was appointed to the position but he later took up duties as a jailor. Thereafter, the hangman position has remained vacant. A few years ago, when the Government mulled lifting the de facto moratorium on the death penalty, the Prisons Department called applications for two hangmen, and several applications were received, including at least one from a female applicant.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner General of Prisons H.M.N.C.Dhanasinghe told the Sunday Observer that all prisoners convicted of major drug related offences were being placed under special supervision in a bid to nab drug smuggling operations from within the prison walls. Orders were also issued to move prisoners convicted on charges of engaging in organised crime to a separate facility for special monitoring from tomorrow (16). 


Hi Deepika Udugama, What about those persons whose rights that are violated by drug dealers, contract killers, rapists? Don't they deserve to have those who have committed crimes against them to be punished? You seem to have a one track mind. Please remember that people take the law into their own hands owing to stupid decisions taken by people like you. Criminals should be punished according to the law of the land. There is nothing wrong with it.