TO HANG OR NOT TO HANG: ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE
Posted on July 14th, 2019

Sugath Samarasinghe

Being an ignoramus, I was neither for nor against this idea of Judicial Executions. Yet I have been reading most of the stuff that is being written mostly against the idea. I am stuck by the mostly pseudo intellectual arguments that is being written, I am wondering whether there is no other approach to this issue; and after reading the article the article of Dr. Nihal Jayawickrame in ‘The Island’ last Sunday, it was virtually like the last straw that broke the back of the camel! I thought I must respond to this pseudo intellectualism. For instance he asks whether it is proper for Buddhists to approve judicial killings. Now let us stop kidding. I think Dr. J is trying to pull wool over our eyes. It is true that it is more than 2000 years ago the first disciple of the Buddha took upon himself I shall not take life”. Does it mean that no Buddhist has ever killed anybody since then? Several Kings came to listen to and discuss Dhamma with the Buddha. Did he ever ask the kings not to execute criminals in their kingdoms, as it was the criminal justice system of the day, because that was contrary to what he preached? He left state craft to the kings, because it was not his business. He was one who left his kingdom in search of a truth which was beyond statecraft. In fact, among the Jataka Tales there is a story where he as a Bodhisthva king tried to mix criminal justice with Dhamma, messed up the whole system and was forced leave kingship to the jungles for meditation. So it is not necessary to re-discover wheel all over again. The two does not go together like cheese and cake. Thus, it is not necessary to misdirect ourselves with such false arguments.

Then there is another situation for us to learn from. We had an unending Terrorist ‘war’ running for thirty years. All these intellectuals both local and foreign, and of course the usual do gooders like the US , Canada, UK and Europeans, mostly one time colonialists, told us that it was an ‘unwinnable war’ and that the only way out was through negotiation. But when they had such problems like in Iraq, Libya of Syria they had no hesitation to using unethical and uncivilized means to achieve their targets. At last, a villager from the paddy fields of down South came up, he probably knew little English and may even have been originally a village thug (!). He said that is enough” and took on the Terrorists head on, and finished the matter! And now what? The hypocrites of the West are splitting their hairs, to send him to gallows for ‘war crimes’! And our intellectuals are with them. When the Terrorists were creating havoc here they were all in hiding, pontificating; they sent their children abroad for protection and education. Now that peace is restored, they preach that to rejoice the hard earned freedom is nothing but ‘triumphalism’, when the WWII victory is still being celebrated in the West. Isn’t this funny logic?

Now another villager who also knows little English and therefore his mind not cluttered with pseudo intellectualism, has come from the backwoods of Polonnaruwa (difficult to pronounce for Anglophiles of Colombo!), wants to hang some convicted drug dealers to see whether he could reduce the drug problem that is stalking this country, like Duterte of Philippines. Duterte told his detractors and Western critics Go to hell. I owe an explanation only to people of my country.” Such commonsense is abhorrent to these people.

This man, Maithripala, for whom 62 ½ lakhs of people had voted (though now we cannot find them!) has, let us admit, dealt the biggest damage on the Drug world here so far, and wants to see whether he could deal it a knockout blow if possible, may be as a political gambit. But is willing to go with it unlike any of his predecessors dared to, whether it is unethical or not according to conventional intellectual thinking of which he does not know. He, in his naivety, seems to think unprecedented problems need unprecedented solutions”. Why not let him have a go ahead and watch the outcome, especially since we too do not have a solution?

His detractors may say how could you play with other people’s life like that? But let us not forget that he is the President for whom 6 and a half million people voting directly, whether we like it or not now. Does he reflect the majority view of the people with whom sovereignty is said to lie? These intellectuals seem to equate their acquired views to be the view of the people. Isn’t this simple humbuggery? I am told that when the Daily Mirror carried out a public poll on this, 63% had voted for hanging.

Besides, look at the enormous extent of social devastation that the Drug menace is doing to this country. Why are these pseudo intellectuals not addressing this major aspect of the problem? How can one argue only looking at a single facet of this matter? Besides this, this menace is corrupting the entire Prison system. The day it will corrupt and intimidate the other limbs of the criminal justice system is not too far away. It is common knowledge that our political system has already become a victim of the Drug mafia. Is the Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister expecting financial support from the Drug lords at the coming elections?  Otherwise why cannot they not keep their gaps shut in this critical moment?

I am told that countries like Malaysia and Singapore have the death penalty for Drug dealers. And their drug problem seem to be contained. I also recall that when some Australian drug smugglers were to be hung in Malaysia some time ago, the Western detractors and Human Rights people appealed to that government, Malaysia’s reply was: Just respect our laws”. Why cannot we an independent country think like that? What is this backboneless servile thinking?

These intellectuals are horrified at the suggestion of bringing back capital punishment as inhuman and uncivilized. But thousands of people die on the roads due to driving like maniacs. So many hundreds are murdered daily in society, so many commit suicide. We have not seen concern expressed on all these tragedies and remedies suggested by these grandees. Then, who is concerned with the victims of these crimes. They and their families suffer in silence. There is no one to care for or bring solace to them. Also convictions in these cases is rare to come by. The slightest benefit of the doubt is given to the suspect. Trials are woefully delayed. Witnesses are intimidated and some die. While all this is happening around us, these pseudo intellectuals raise such a hue and cry when someone tries to do something decisive. I wonder whether they are genuinely concerned about human welfare. As far as I see, in this imperfect world there are no perfect answers to all these problems. Yet something has to be done, no doubt.

Some of them argue on the level of proof and judicial procedures. It is quite well known of the existing due process in operation. It is detailed as practically as possible to avoid a mistake by this fine comb procedure. The Sathasivam case is in fact an example where benefit of doubt was eventually given in favour of the accused. There are many other examples.

Then Dr. J has questioned the manner in which the President has selected the four persons to be hanged from among the drug offenders. As long as they are all drug offenders who are duly condemned to death, does it so much matter which one is taken first or second? I am told there is a convict who was held responsible for having Judge Ambepitiya who found him guilty, killed? For whose sake did that Judge do that? So what is the limit for ‘retributive justice’? Isn’t there some conclusion in these matters? Can good governance be maintained like that? We know of the grave situation prevailing in some Latin American countries like Columbia, Bolivia and Mexico where governance has become virtually impossible, that at a point no one was willing to become the IGP in Mexico. Things are bad here. But need we wait doing nothing till we come to that pass arguing whether death penalty is good or bad? Let some common sense prevail.

We are told by the Police Anti-Narcotics Bureau that this country is considered a soft target for drug trafficking because of the soft laws and corrupt politicians. This shows that unless someone takes a drastic step as this even as an experiment, we are doomed to eventually become a drug heaven.

Dr. J had ended his article in persuading the President to change his mind with the following quotation:

…execution of the death penalty as described by Professor Chris Barnard:

“The man’s spinal cord will rupture at the point where it enters the skull, electro-chemical discharges will send his limbs flailing in a grotesque dance, eyes and tongue will start from the facial apertures under the assault of the rope and his bowels and bladder may simultaneously void themselves to soil the legs and drip on the floor”.

I recall that a beautiful eighteen year school girl in Kayts Island was gang raped and killed in brought daylight that scandalized the entire nation. One accused had even videoed it to make money out of it by showing it in Switzerland. I would like to ask Dr. J whether this unfortunate girl would have felt much different when raped by five people and killed. Just imagine that such things happen in our midst in our country where we too live. How should we deal with it?

I am still not promoting judicial killing. But want to highlight the fact that this is not an open and shut matter where we could pontificate on right and wrong. Let some common sense also prevail.

Sugath Samarasinghe

3 Responses to “TO HANG OR NOT TO HANG: ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE”

  1. samurai Says:

    I tend to agree with the writer Sugath Samarasinghe. Crime and punishment is a complicated matter.

    It was Patrick Buchanan who said that the abolition of death penalty gives an assurance to a would-be criminal that no matter how many people he kills or maims his life is guaranteed.

    My point however is that those who oppose the enforcement of the death penalty every time the issue is raised should first propose and effective ways and means to reduce crime and murderous driving to the minimum. In the present instance the President has called for the execution of only narcotic drug traffickers. These are the worst since other criminals will kill (or rape and kill) one or several. But drug kingpin’s victims are hundreds and thousands of people nor even known to him. And the addiction for which he is responsible will continue for generations. Even if these offenders are jailed for life they will continue their operations from within the prison walls. This is a well-known fact. Can the pundits who oppose executing these scumbags suggest an alternative?

    I do not welcome the death penalty if an effective alternative is found. However if it has to be done the best method of execution is by a firing squad. Instant death and therefore least painful, in my view

  2. aloy Says:

    All the prisoners identified by prez are drug related. And that is genocidal: targeted against two ethnic groups.

  3. Randeniyage Says:

    As it stands today, LAW is for the poor and weak only.
    Therefore, to hell with DEATH PENALTY all the court system shall be dismantled together with police force.

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