Capital Punishment – the Hanging Saga
Posted on July 16th, 2018

R Chandrasoma

Reason and Compassion must defeat Wrath and Vengefulness in dealing with homicidal violence in a civilized society. The hoary argument  that the crime and its punishment must match in terms of severity and the infliction of harm  – is both primitive and dated. The aim of civilized governance is to repair injury – not to seek retaliatory vengance. The State must react rationally and mercifully to the delinquency and ill-behaviour of its citizens. While it is true that society must protect itself from a villainous minority, the belief that a killer must be ceremonially hanged to ‘ensure Justice’ is an uncivilized throwback to an age when the poor were at the mercy a Ruler who claimed to be God’s surrogate.  Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country with a religious culture that regards the ‘taking of life’  of any species as a morally heinous act. This being the case, how can there be a ‘public murder’ that is spuriously supposed to promote Law and Order in an otherwise ill-disciplined society? Retaliatory killing is an abject primitivism that is not lessened because it is the State itself that perpetrates this horror.

What is most astonishing in this moral tale is the support of the Buddhist Intelligensia in Sri Lanka for this moral aberration – and, it is not only the intelligentsia but the fraternity of Buddhist Monks that welcomes this need to kill in order to restore law and order. That the ancient Kings of Lanka were great champions of ‘judicial killing’ is a well-attested historical fact – but the relevance of this ancient barbarism to the social problems of this day and age is moot. Let us end with an even more astonishing argument – that ‘death by hanging’ is part of a karmic destiny that is ineluctable. This cruel fatalism – astonishingly – is popular in this country where religion is taken very seriously not only by the oppressed and the marginalized but also the ruling elite. That the civilized nations of the World abjure and abhor this villainous primitivism is neither heard or understood in our unfortunate country.

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