Sri Lanka will carry out death sentences imposed by its courts on drug traffickers despite objections from human rights advocates, a government spokesman announced on July 11. President Maithripala Sirisena
has said he will sign the necessary orders to implement unanimous cabinet approval of executions taking place for the sake of current and future generations. But Nuwan Malinda, 38, a Sunday school teacher and social activist, said there was a lack of evidence internationally to show that capital punishment significantly reduces drug crime. He added that capital punishment contravenes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Malinda said Sri Lanka would be seen as "uncivilized" when judicial executions were again carried out, something that has not happened for 42 years. The last execution in Sri Lanka was in June 1976. In 2004, the then government moved to reinstate the carrying out of executions for rape, drug trafficking and murder, but amid widespread opposition no executions have been carried out. The present government insists that in future executions will be allowed to proceed. Malinda said allegedly serious offences could involve mental illness, lack of formal education or severe poverty. "Capital punishment rejects the hope of any rehabilitation," he added. Police on July 11 arrested two people — allegedly with 9.9 kilograms of heroin hidden at a rice mill — said to be worth 118 million Sri Lankan rupees (US$740,000). The British brought Sri Lanka under their control in 1815 and banned forms of execution such as beheading and drowning, but they introduced hanging. London-based Amnesty International
has urged the Sri Lankan government to commute all death sentences and join 142 nations that have already abolished capital punishment. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said in a media briefing on July 12 that the church will support President Sirisena's decision on capital punishment for drug traffickers who organize crimes while they are in prison.