Death penalty re-introduced

[TamilNet, Saturday, 13 March 1999, 18:23 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government introduced capital punishment today for murder and drug trafficking after concern at the increase in the crime rate. The recommendations were made by a special Presidential Commission.

There has been a public outcry at the the growing incidence of murder, rape and arson over the past few years thought to be linked to the increasing number of Sri Lankan Army deserters.

The Police have often been accused of collusion with the criminals and of systematic apathy in solving murders, arson and rape and bringing the culprits to book.

The presidential proclamation, while declaring capital punishment, castigates the former UNP regime for pardoning and promoting criminals.

The timing and tone of the proclamation shows that it is politically motivated charged a member of the UNP, commenting on the re-introduction of capital punishment in Sri Lanka.

However, several community leaders and social workers in Colombo welcomed the proclamation today, saying that it will help curb the crime rate.

The Presidential proclamation issued this afternoon says:

"Her Excellency the President has been concerned for a considerable time about the alarming increase in the incidents of crime which trend has (sic) apparently set in during the last two decades. The erosion of traditional values under the impact of the laissez faire economic policy, devoid of any humane element, followed by the previous government was accompanied by a liberal attitude towards criminal elements. Persons in high positions consorted with notorious figures of the underworld. Criminals convicted of rape and criminal assault were given Presidential pardons, some of them even being elevated to positions of Justice of the Peace. A very liberal policy of granting remissions to prisoners was introduced."

"Her Excellency is of the view that one of the immediate measures to be taken to arrest the present trend in crime is to follow a more stringent policy in the grant of remission of sentences imposed by the Courts. Her Excellency has therefore reviewed the policy relating to the exercise of the President's constitutional prerogative of granting remissions of sentences, a policy which has been in existence for the last two decades and has decided that the following changes will come into immediate effect.

1) The death sentence imposed by Court in cases of murder and drug trafficking will be carried out and will not be commuted to life imprisonment if in accordance with the relevant constitutional and statutory procedure, the judge who heard the case, the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice unanimously recommend the execution of such sentence.

2) Death sentences commuted to life imprisonment in the absence of such a unanimous recommendation will not be further reduced to a specified period of time until the prisoner has served a period of at least 20 years in prison nor will he be eligible for any remissions under general amnesties till then. This is a change from the present practice of considering such reduction after a prisoner has served a period of four years.

3) General amnesties will be granted only to mark the Independence Day. This is a reduction from the six occasions annually when amnesties are granted at present.

4) Only one week's remission for every year or part of an year already served will be granted on each occasion. This is a reduction from the three weeks' remission. In any event this remission will not be granted to persons convicted of serious crimes such as rape, child abuse, robbery, unauthorised possession of firearms, acts of terrorism and drug trafficking."


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