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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2424

Hang down your head and cry Yahapalana

By A Patabendige

The claim of the Yahapalana government was that it had come to power through a rainbow revolution. Now at the end of the rainbow it wants to hang on to power by hanging people albeit 19 selected criminals in prison but without trial!

There is plenty of free speech being boasted about for all. However there is about to be no life at all for some. This is in 2018, in the first quarter of the 21 st century when the sanctity of all life is no longer in any doubt, except among devils in human form. SL’s government has not judicially executed anyone for over 40 years.

The order to hang 19 convicts for alleged links with drug dealers outside the prison has exposed the devil’s own advocates.

A priest from Galle has rushed in to support the call. He justifies revenge. It is loftily camouflaged as reason, civic sense and being sanctioned by religious texts which are interpreted to support his own inhumanity and sadistic convictions. One engineer promoting good governance has even worked out racial averages; no doubt to the advantage of a particular race - to support judicial strangulation. A doddering doctor who remains confused nearly 40 years after about who burnt the Jaffna library poked himself into this controversy as well to support execution to remain in the public eye. Masquerading as upholders of human rights, law and order and good governance they thankfully cannot hide their real miserable identities anymore.

In quick time, people will remember all those who supported resuming judicial executions with abhorrence, contempt and revulsion. It should not cause wonder that those who condoned extra judicial killings in 1989-90 when 60,000 Sinhalese died are already said to be testing the hangman’s rope.

“Shake hands with the Devil” (Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire- Canadian Army in Kigali Rwanda with the UN forces)

Dr.Nihal Jayawickrema, an expert in law at the international level, in his article published in the 'Sunday Island' and 'Sunday Times' of 22 July has cogently, massively, incisively, meticulously and politely demolished the decision of the President, endorsed by the cabinet, to execute these 19 prisoners as being contrary to SL and international law. The 19 while on death row less one who was serving a life sentence at Welikada prison were alleged to have controlled drug distribution outside, but were neither charged nor tried for involvement. The cabinet decided to wag its tail acknowledging the President’s commanding whistle. However its endorsement of judicial executions is clearly and completely beyond its remit.

Where in the world does a democratically elected cabinet get involved in giving its consent to executions? What was the purpose? This cabinet strangely enough has its own ‘experts’ that include 3 ministers of justice in 3.5 years and a shower of lawyers. What was their response? Silence? It misled itself. SL has had more than enough killings for 30 years nonstop.

These die hard supporters of what many call legalized murder may have read Dr Nihal Jayawickrema’s description of the actual act of hanging as related by a British expert Professor Chris Barnard. It starts with “The man’s spinal column chord will rapture where it enters the skull……”.Dr NJ also quotes a retired Chief Justice of the South African supreme court who states after describing the state of mind of the man who awaits his day of execution that annihilation of a person obviates the persons rights enshrined in the nation’s constitution. No doubt all this will also serve to buttress the arguments of those who believe in revenge as an inherent part of justice.

Thankfully humane and brilliant minds like Dr Upul Wijewardene, (Island) Dr Ravindra Fernando, (Emeritus Professor Colombo University and KDU), Thirantha Walallyadde PC (both Sunday Times) among others have condemned this move in no uncertain terms.

Did anyone however also smell a rat? It appeared that the emphasis was on the fact that the proposal for execution was initiated not by the cabinet but by the President. Surely, this is an opportunity target for cunning activists. Prominent ones like NPC, CPA have been strangely very silent so far. The JVP as usual is hedging its bets, seeking the government’s nod and wink. They seem to have a mutually tacit agreement not to refer to their killing fields of 1989-90.

Could this be mischievous too? Did the lawyers (except for the BASL), IGP and Prison’s chief, understand and object or fall for it? Did some lawyers scent windfall fees from murder suspects? SL must be rescued from witnessing tragic, massive and irrevocable judicial misadventure(s).

HRCSL was completely ignored. Its response was tepid. What it did was akin to promoting wearing bullet proof jackets to stopping war.

Much more than any legal argument for or against the death penalty, and there are many that have been vigourously debated for many decades, is the most powerful moral one. This not only guided SL it is hoped for 42 years, but is internationally accepted by almost the real ‘whole world’ the cabinet has yet to wake up to. A predominantly Buddhist country is absolutely correct to oppose taking the life of humans. The state should not just have a moratorium on it but abolish the death penalty.

Some fervently and desperately in favour of execution have ignorantly and falsely pleaded that Russia like the USA too continues with it as though super power endorsement was the criteria for approval. In fact Russia abolished it in the last century. Further 17 states in the USA including New York and Illinois too have done so. Debates concern constitutionality, jury incompetence, race bias, costs to the state, infirmities of judges and inhuman punishment among other things that are common to all. There was a moratorium for about 5 years in the USA too. In SL in common with most South Asian countries, scores of witnesses can be bought and will lie through their teeth. The legal system helplessly acknowledges this.

The whole legal system from judges, lawyers police, prisons, witnesses expert or not and court administration is known to be miserably and severely if not permanently flawed in SL.

When a young man apparently high on drugs and drink took a 19 year old Swedish girl and bashed her to death from floor to floor to death in the luxury Royal Park apartment block in Rajagiriya during the time of the phony peace (2001-2005) , the first thing the police tried to do was to hush up the case. The parents of the murderer were filthy rich. The accused due to public outcries mostly was arrested a few days later in a luxury hotel with his parents. The sentence for what was one of the most ghastly murders in SL was just 12 years in jail.

The father of the girl vowed he would leave for Sweden with his wife and other daughter and never return. The AG’s department thankfully did not give up and appealed the sentence. The murderer was given the death sentence restoring SL’s shattered judicial image a pinch, temporarily.

In another case a 14 year old son murdered his parents with a gun in Wellawatte. He was acquitted being declared mentally deranged and under age. He made a marvelous mental recovery later and swindled the national lotteries board for tens of millions SL rupees. Clearly there is one law for some and another for the others, invariably the poor. Few, even if not deranged, can deny it. In such a murky legal environment executing the accused must surely be extremely hazardous, merciless, immoral, inexcusable and inhumane as it is irrevocable for the innocent. In the almighty USA, DNA profiling showed 69 innocent people were executed in 10 years (Prof RF). Most of them invariably would be poor African Americans.

Western countries have far more acceptable and less incorruptible legal systems than SL. Yet they abolished the death penalty as the moral reasons outweighed and were far more compelling than stark, violent, fanatic and prophetic legal arguments. The Old Testament ‘eye for an eye’ justice was buried in a 95% Christian environment.

Pope Francis possibly the most revered and loved person in the world said the death penalty was “inadmissible in the light of the Gospel because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”. He accordingly updated its catechism, the most important guide to Catholic teaching. Many Catholics in SL unfortunately toed the earlier given bloody line. What is of grave concern in a 70% Buddhist environment is that there still are those, some in robes, who especially in front of politicians’ caterwaul that they support anything the government proposes, including execution.

It leaves China, India, Pakistan, the balance US states (combined population of the four is nearly 3 billion) together with some medieval Middle East states, Singapore and Japan out in the cold. Pakistan, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq account for 84% of judicial executions. Barring China, who from SL would want to live in those other 4 states? SL should not try to behave like them.

SL lost 200.000 people in 2 conflicts with the JVP and the LTTE in 30 years. That is enough killing to last forever (and a day).

Pointedly the government wants to hand over some of its soldiers to international tribunes as it apparently supports the West’s contention that the SL judiciary is not competent to judge its own soldiers. Does this government then have faith in the SL judiciary only when it orders the death sentence? Is there a possibility for regular miscarriages of justice? Even if one innocent man is executed is it not irrevocably and morally abhorrent? What would the government’s favourite ’whole world (white eyes only) say? The EU has already warned SL of punitive action if it goes through with executions. It has exposed the hypocrisy of the government. This is not funny for the people.

It is said that the number to be executed is 19. Some facetiously hope it will be 225.However no one believes this horrible threat will be ever carried out. It is one among many promises of Eldorado, paradise etc or just Volkswagens or gold bracelets and chewing gum, the favourites of the PM. The NPC appears to think that firming in on the prosecution of the death penalty is a sign of ‘leadership’ apparently to stand for election as president.

Interesting revelations followed. One minister whose garrulousness is passed as being ‘out spoken’ even as it is always short of credibility said he was against executions as it went against his conscience. He nevertheless went along with the decision in order to ‘maintain collective responsibility in the cabinet’. What sort of moral sense did this man have to go against his conscience and agree a decision to take human life for the sake of collective responsibility in a cabinet? Has he heard the word ‘resign’? Maybe he has and his precious conscience will not allow this too.

This same man added recklessly that the leaders in the Rotarians and the Lions and Buddhist ‘organizations’ were involved in the drug business. When the fury of the Rotarians and Lions mounted this man, obviously a coward, instead of standing his ground abjectly apologized. Significantly he did not apologize to the Buddhist ‘organizations’. The last has been taken up by Malinda Seneviratne so I will leave it for him to whip - hard. There are countless Buddhist organizations and this man has branded them all with the same iron, while giving clearance certificates to other religions and organizations. It is not hard to guess as to what gallery he was playing. Of course there is his weird conscience to bear with too. It also believes he can go unchallenged for making scandalous, offensive, scurrilous statements as a minister.

Did hiding as usual behind parliamentary privilege, in order to stand by the ‘collective action’ of the opposition to demean Army Commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka (SF) in 2008, he ludicrously and shamelessly stated that SF was not fit to be in the Salvation Army? He and his collective were not to know that the LTTE was in terminal decline. Ominous again this time.

Why did this minister wait until the cabinet took a decision to approve execution of selected drug offenders in prison to make public how his malleable conscience worked? Can he now plead ‘Mangala Innocence’ to withholding for over 3 years, information that affects law and order - concerning the leaders of the prominent institutions and ‘organizations’ he said ‘innocently’ were allegedly in cahoots with the drug mafia or worse?

There were a few nondescripts too who pleaded collective responsibility to support capital punishment against their ‘conscience’. What a sorry spectacle they made running around in circles playing both hunters and runners.

Fog horns brought up the rear blowing from the nooks and crannies of crumbling power to sign in that they whole heartedly supported the implementation of the death penalty.

Did Cardinal Ranjith who so many look up to as a God fearing and upright religious leader, let the side down? He appeared to support the call for execution for some. He must be flustered now as he must realize he has made a very serious mistake. He must make amends and try not to please friends in high places. Plain speaking Mr. Ephraim Fernando’s support for the same also came as an unexpected and unpleasant surprise.

It was reported the Mahanayakes are also in agreement with the cabinet. They are expected to lead, not to follow. How can any Buddhist, leave alone Mahanayake’s ever endorse the killing of a human? That monarchs did so in history does not excuse anyone who supports it today. There is a Buddhist majority in SL. This is going to be awkward for all concerned.

Sometime later, Bishop Canagasabai rightly condemned the cabinet decision. Would former Bishop Chickera not have spoken up immediately?

Meanwhile the Prison chief re advertised for hangmen. Thousands of perverts may apply this time. Humorists suggest it is best for him is to ask rival gangsters to volunteer. Of course they will then be exposed to the mercies of the dead men’s friends. Instead of ODIs, SL can view full serials on the already bloody streets. Maybe that would not be funny.

There is also a promising comic who on a breakfast show wanted the hangings to be done on the Galle Face Green to set an example. Those politicians who say they approve reintroducing hanging should be special invitees if it happens. The comic may insist he should be chief guest. With persons like this SL will surely out do the devil.

Where were Seneratne, Haresha, Eran W and the HR crowd? Why is Ravi silent? Are there conspiracies afoot?

The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-ling-a-ling.

‘The bells of hell go ting a-ling a-ling aling for you and not for me.
Now I’ll say good bye to you
O Death where is your sting’?

- Asian Tribune -

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