Sri Lankan President Adopts Hardline Stance on Drug Trafficking
Sri Lanka’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, recently announced his intention to continue utilizing capital punishment in drug trafficking cases in the next two months. Sirisena’s new hardline approach is inspired by the Philippines’ war on drugs, led by President Rodrigo Duterte.
This week, Sri Lanka’s state-run newspaper, Daily News, ran an advertisement recruiting two hangmen, or executioners. The applicants must be male and between 18 to 45 years old with “mental strength” and “excellent moral character” in order to be eligible for the two advertised vacancies. The indicated monthly salary for the designated position is of 36, 310 rupees (or $203.99), which surpasses Sri Lanka’s standard pay for governmental positions.
Sri Lanka has not used the death penalty in any drug trafficking case since 1976, when a moratorium on capital punishment was announced. Since then, criminals originally sentenced to death row have served life sentences in jail instead.
However, after four decades of not executing prisoners convicted of drug-related crimes, Sri Lanka is being taken in a new direction by its president. President Sirisena’s concerns about drug trafficking come from a view that Sri Lanka is at risk of becoming a “transit hub” for the Asian narcotics trade.
President Sirisena is following in the footsteps of controversial and outspoken President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. During President Sirisena’s state visit to the Philippines in January, the Sri Lankan leader told President Duterte: “the war against crime on drugs carried out by you is an example to the whole world, and personally to me. Drug menace is rampant in my country and I feel that we should follow your footsteps to control this hazard.”
President Duterte responded by acknowledging the potential for a partnership between the Philippines and Sri Lanka in fighting against international drug trafficking.
However, other international figures are much more wary about President Duterte’s war on drugs, which has already taken the lives of approximately 12,000 people, according to the Human Rights Watch. HRW stated that Duterte’s campaign has inspired violence that could amount to “crimes against humanity.”
In the next few months, Sri Lanka’s President Sirisena may become President Duterte’s partner in his efforts to combat drug crimes.