The gallows: Sandbag tested, hangmen on verge of recuitement
Posted on July 24th, 2012

By Mario Perera, Kadawata

Such was the report in the “ƒ”¹…”Island’ recently. The death penalty is a contentious subject. The present actual context as always counts for much in determining the issue. What the times have to tell us is alarming. No one denies that this country is in the throes of a lawlessness crisis. Rank, status and position do not count today where crime is concerned. Drug barons, murderers, hooligans, extortionists, swindlers, commision crows, all corrupt to the core, occupy high seats whether at national or provincial level. They are not only tolerated but even embraced and kept pinned to their seats as  being vote pullers. One such notorious hoodlum was reportedly being used as a go-between in negociations between the government and a group of striking academics. In other words such refuse of decent society are even considered as necessary elements in the practise of governance.

Twenty top ranking provincial politicians were involved in rape and murder over the last three months. The Kahawatte multiple murders, with politics as backdrop, all following similar patterns send shivers down our spines. Tourist women are not spared as seen in the murder of one of them in a hotel of the south, with umpteen cases of molestation. Teen aged school girls are easy prey for use and abuse. The lilfeless bodies of some are later dumpted under abandoned culvets.

One such accused provincial politician even had the guts to utter threats to the media when led handcuffed to courts. and that in view of all television onlookers. “ƒ”¹…”Who’ and “ƒ”¹…”where’ do not instill respect. The judiciary is held in contempt (one could argue with sound logic and reason that they have asked for it with “ƒ”¹…”toe the line’ judges abounding in all courts). There was, a few years ago, an opinion poll conducted in the streets of Colombo regarding the re-introduction of the death penalty. Absolutely every one interrogated answered positively and vehemently in favour. Some even insisted that executions should be held in public…on the Galle Face esplanade. Such is the fear psychosis combined with disgust and loathing that has gripped the people.

The issue of the death penalty is contentious and highly debated. The most proliferated argument is that the death penalty does not dissuade criminals. Satistics are quoted in support. Generally speaking, the countries of South-East Asia where people move about in security are those where the death penaty prevails and harsh punishments are meted out for crime. I am thinking of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and of course, Singapore. Some countries with entrenched religions, and highly sophisticated ones at that, are the worst offenders especially as regards sex oriented crimes: India and Sri Lanka (which boasts of all four major religions) are classic examples.

Our professors of morality proceed with the contention that religion should serve as deterrent. And also what about our 2600 year old civilization? it is argued. Unfortunately both, in spite of the sound and light effects they continue to generate, are spent forces as regards the inner renewal of the country’s citizens. What is forgotten is that religion and civilization go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin thriving on one another. When one falls so does the other. In Sri Lanka both have floundered to such an extent that putting them back seems as arduous as reconstructing Hympty Dumpty. Have not leading Buddhist monks stated in public that mere “ƒ”¹…”bana’ preaching this country cannot be put on the right track. Harping on religion and civilization today is like tailoring invisible clothes  for naked emperors.

Does the death penalty dissuade potential murderers? Those who say “ƒ”¹…”no’ come up with perennial arguments already enshrined in classical works such as the writings of J – P. Sartre and Albert Camus who enunciated theses of ultra-humanism. Both were, it must be remembered extreme-left thinkers. As a counter argument suffice it to restate what Mr.Wijedasa Rajapakse once said on television: that when the inmates of death row were made aware of imminent attempts to re-introduce the gallows, they all suffered overnight from acute diarrhea.

This phenomenon caused by morbid fear has been translated into Sinhales as “ƒ”¹…”goo bhaya’. So who says the death penalty does not beget fear? This is the physical reality as experienced by condemned murderers which no doubt also affects their closest entourage with repercussions on wider circles. But there are other imposing arguments that render the above stated objection look puerile. As regards the much vaunted statistics adduced as proof, one could ask: how much of perpetrated crime is made official and brought to public awareness? Crime could well be compared with bank deposits.

How many of such are official? How many are hidden in undisclosed accounts, or are buried in nameless graves that are bank vaults, or sent abroad envelopped in secrecy? So also with crime. With most crime, especially sex crimes, what is brought to the limelight is only the tip of the iceberg. Ideas of respectability, status, reputation and the thought of being involved in interminable police and legal wranglings often stand in the way of giving publicity to crime. So as with bank accounts, many criminal deeds are stacked away in undisclosed deposits, inbdividual and collective, even hidden from prying journalistic eyes. Statistics are therefore false indicators meant for the gullible.

The only lesson criminals should be made to understand is that “ƒ”¹…”crime does not pay’. This is best shown by making the criminals pay for their deeds in a manner commensurate with the crimes committed. And now is the time for enforcement. Furthermore, rape, abuse of minors, murder, are acts of terror and their perpetrators must be considered as being terrorists. Has not this country declared an all out war on terror? Have we won over one terror only to succumb to another?

The gallows is long overdue. The sandbags have been tested, hangmen are soon to be recruited on a long term basis “”…” fifteen year contracts. The sandbags can now be safely set aside and the useless gutter garbage bins of our society serve instead as dead weight with the send-off words: good riddance to bad rubbish. Indeed religion and civilization urgently need legislative and executive props to make their mark on men and morals. In Sri Lanka State and religion have had closer ties that in most countries.

It is high time to activate that link. At present both are dormant each living in its own dreamland with ample excuses for not foraying into the question of the death penalty, expecially its execution. Execution of the death sentence would be of immense service to both. The judiciary appears to have taken the lead with the historic Appeal Court judgment in the “ƒ”¹…”Royal Park Condominium’ murder case. It is for the judiciary to judge. But it needs the Executive to “ƒ”¹…”execute’.The time indeed is more than ripe for that.

Mario Perera, Kadawata

5 Responses to “The gallows: Sandbag tested, hangmen on verge of recuitement”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Death penalty is LONG OVERDUE.

    Why delay any further? Hang ’em all!

    First hang the terrorists in prison. Terrorism is punishable by death.
    Next hang the traitors. Treason is also punishable by death.
    Next hang the faggs. It is also a crime in SL punishable by death.
    Next the drug dealers, sex offenders, murderers.
    Next the rest.

    A prisoner would cost at least Rs. 1,000 a day – free food, free lodging, free entertainment, free security, free drugs. That is 1,000 * 300 for a year 300,000.
    For 25 years, 300,000 * 25 = 7,500,000 WITHOUT INFLATION!!

    This is crazy.

    Hanging costs nothing!

    There are thousands facing death penalty living in prison.

    1000*7,500,000 = 7.5 BILLION rupees every damn year.

    How stupid is this?

  2. Dilrook Says:

    I have to disagree on the priorities. Death penalty must be introduced but only after putting the justice system in order. Otherwise political opponents will be ceremonially hanged by manipulating the system.

    Without putting the justice system in order, it is dangerous to introduce the death penalty. The legal profession is the most corrupt profession in the country if not the medical profession. They decide who goes to the gallows. Police also plays a big role. Police force is heavily politicised. Recently the police was doing a better job than before in apprehending criminals. But when the stakes are high with the death penalty, none of the top ranking criminals will be even arrested.

    Wijedasa Rajapaksha is part of the problem as this politician (who has already jumped camp three times over disagreements with the ministries and benefits he and his goons got) interferes with the judiciary, lawyers and the entire spectrum through his new post – BASL President. It is shameful for a daytime politician and MP to become the Bar Association president. There is no worse insult to the legal profession than this.

    Those who have political connections and money will get away in most cases. There are only very few exemptions. That is why the house must be put in order first.

    However, in rare cases where the politicised police, politicised lawyers and judges and politicians who ultimately give the green light agree, death penalty should be carried out. It is a small but good start. It cannot net the big criminals but still creates the fear of legal retribution.

  3. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    Some crimes are so gruesome and pre-planned, death penalty is the only deterrent that might prevent similar crimes being committed. As the danger with the death penalty is that innocent people might be found guilty through police incompetence or deliberate framing, death penalty if implemented, I think the convicted person should be given reasonable time to lodge an appeal. In my view a reasonable time should be at least 5 years, unless there are several reliable eye witnesses. Also, all murders do not equally deserve a death penalty. There could be unintended killings through unforgivable provocation by the victim. There could also be deliberate killing on compassionate grounds, like euthanasia of those with incurable and painful disease requesting death. Last two categories do not deserve a death penalty. However, those pre-plan killings (mafia and terrorist types) or gruesome murders, do not deserve mercy, but in anycase be given 5years grace to ensure that police has not bungled it. Similarly, though drug pedlers do not deserve death, their bosses who invariably are mass murderers do deserve the death penalty.

  4. A. Sooriarachi Says:

    One thing I can’t understand is when some people say death penalty is not a deterrent to murder. It could very well be so, for murders committed through sudden provocation such as in self defence or defence of a loved one or sudden anger caused by intolerable slander, but it certainly is a deterrent against pre-meditated murders. As I understand, today pre-meditated murders are on the rise, sometimes with political protection, and this must be stopped.

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    We agree that a period of about 5 yrs be given to the accused to prove innocence, before death penalty is implemented. Also, the different types of heinous crimes must be clearly categorized for the public to know the differences viz. pre-meditated murder vs spontaneous provocation, the latter being considered less offensive in the eyes of the law.

    We agree with Dilrook that the Political & Legal establishment be cleaned up too, for GoSL to retain its good name, post-war with ltte.

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