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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Wanted: Hangman to carry out death penalty in Sri Lanka

Island has reinstated capital punishment to counter drug crimes

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, left, seen here with visiting Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on July 12, 2018, has reinstated the death penalty. AFP
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, left, seen here with visiting Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on July 12, 2018, has reinstated the death penalty. AFP

Sri Lanka is looking for an executioner to fill the vacant position of state hangman, prison officials said on Friday, after President Maithripala Sirisena ended the island's moratorium on capital punishment.

Prisons spokesman Thushara Upuldeniya said a job advertisement would be placed next week for the post of hangman after Mr Sirisena announced drug traffickers would be put to death instead of left in jail for life.

Sri Lanka has not executed a prisoner since 1976. Criminals are regularly given death sentences for murder, rape and drug-related crimes but their punishments have been commuted to life.

The island 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.

"The previous executioners deserted the post," Mr Upuldeniya said.

"But, we have to be ready to carry out executions after the government decision this week."

A salary of 35,000 rupees (Dh808) per month will be offered to the successful candidate, he said.

This week, Mr Sirisena said Sri Lanka would return to hanging prisoners convicted of repeat drug offences as his administration announced a crackdown on narcotics.

Authorities say a tougher approach is needed to combat what they say is an increase in drug-related crime.

Mr Sirisena said Tuesday he was "ready to sign the death warrants" of traffickers and deploy the military to tackle drug crime.

"From now on, we will hang drug offenders without commuting their death sentences," government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.

"We were told that the Philippines has been successful in deploying the army and dealing with this problem. We will try to replicate their success," he said.

Mr Upuldeniya said there were 373 convicts on death row in Sri Lanka, including 18 for serious drug crimes.

"If the president starts signing death warrants, we should be able to carry out his orders. As far as the gallows is concerned, we are ready. All we need is the executioner in place."

Nearly 900 other prisoners had been handed the death penalty for various crimes but have appealed their sentences, he said.

Amnesty International has urged Sri Lanka not to revive capital punishment.