The Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) yesterday (12), pointed out that the laws of the land, including the supreme law, as enshrined in the Constitution, did not allow for discrimination to be adopted as a practice in the enforcement of the capital punishment on death-row convicts.
The Committee expressed this view in connection with and in opposition to the recent Government announcement of a decision (a proposal made by President Maithripala Sirisena, which was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on 10 July), to enforce and implement the death penalty against large scale, major drug dealers, smugglers and traffickers. The decision comes in the wake of the recent massive drug bust which upon investigation revealed that a death row inmate had masterminded the crime.
In fact, speaking on 11 July at the weekly press briefing, held to announce the Cabinet decisions, Co-Cabinet Spokesman, Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne in response to a journalist’s query as to why the death penalty was not being enforced against those convicted crimes of a particularly heinous nature, such as rape and murder, noted that the relevant authorities would first see the progress on the implementation of death penalty against large scale drug dealers, smugglers and traffickers, and subsequently make a call regarding the former category of offenders. In other words, it is a test or an experiment of sorts.
In this context, Chairman of the Committee, Attorney-at-Law Senaka Perera opined that politicians, through the taking of political decisions, which in this particular instance was populist in nature (and been in discussion since the assassination of High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya), cannot manipulate and violate the law of the land to build up their political image.
He also pointed out a historic fact that large scale drug dealing, smuggling and trafficking generally took place with political patronage and sponsorship.
Perera concurred with the view that the Government’s move constituted selective discrimination on the basis of criminality (the type of offence).
“If the Government has taken a decision to execute the death penalty, then all death row convicts (those sentenced to death by law by Courts) should be thus executed. Drug dealers, smugglers and traffickers alone cannot be targeted and singled out in this manner. The law does not provide for discrimination in this instance. Non-discrimination and the freedom from discrimination are guaranteed in the Constitution. This (against alcohol and drugs) is merely spectacle being enacted for the public by politicians who thrive in luxury on public funds.”