Colombo: Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena said Monday he had rejected a telephone appeal by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to reconsider the decision to reintroduce the death penalty after 43 years.
“He (Guterres) telephoned me last week shortly after I signed four death warrants. I told him to please allow me to stamp out the drug menace and that I want to save my country from drugs,” Sirisena said during a meeting here to mark his anti-narcotics drive.
Sirisena told reporters that he had signed death warrants for four drug offenders Wednesday, but did not give their names nor say when and where the executions would be carried out.
Sirisena also accused the European Union (EU) of interfering in the internal affairs of his country, saying that EU diplomats had threatened him with tariffs if Sri Lanka went ahead with the executions.
“The EU told me that they will withdraw the GSP Plus (tariff concession) if I go ahead. This is interfering with the sovereignty and independence of our country. It is unacceptable.” Sirisena asserted. He also took a swipe at Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other non-governmental organisations that had criticised him over his stance.
Wickremesinghe had said Sunday that a majority of Parliament members were against Sirisena’s decision to resume executions.
Sirisena also faces several court challenges to his decision to restore the death penalty. In the latest case filed Monday in the Supreme Court, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) noted it had been recognised long time back that hanging by death was a cruel and inhuman form of punishment, not befitting a multi-religious and civilised society.
“Though convicts have been sentenced to death, the long recognized practice in Sri Lanka for over 43 years has been that they were not executed,” the CPA’s Executive Director Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu said.
Justice Ministry sources said they were yet to fill the vacancies for two hangmen, although 26 candidates had been shortlisted for the job.
According to Sirisena’s office, the President wanted the hangings to send a powerful message to anyone engaged in the illegal drugs trade.