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Is Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith Going Against Pope Francis By Supporting President Sirisena’s Proposal to Re-introduce the Death Penalty?

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Lucien Rajakarunanayake

There are new employment opportunities opening in the country – for hangmen.

The prison authorities are already calling for applications for two hangmen. Why stop at two? There are so many persons involved in drug trafficking in our prisons, engaged in a fruitful business from within those walls. Why not many more hangmen, (and even “hangwomen”), to make it gender equal? It will give a big boost to President Sirisena’s hangman’s noose thinking, and a new Janapathi Mara Thondu strategy.

What we have today from presidential quarters is largely copycat policy making. President Sirisena could not have missed the news of the seven murderers, members of the Aum Shinkriyo Cult, recently executed in Japan, who killed 13 and injured thousands in the Tokyo subway attacks in 1995. That office would also have of the Indian Supreme Court confirming the death sentence on the four rapist/killers of the Indian student Nirbhaya in 2012, which led to huge Indian protests and call for tougher action against rape.

So, it is time for Sri Lanka to catch up. It will be possible to make people forget, or get their minds away from all the broken promises of the Sirisena common candidate – and get interested in the Hangman’s Noose. This is the Mara Thonduva in politics today.

There are many relevant things that the new Mara Sirisena, who got cheers from his fellow Cabinet Maruvas, supporting his call to carry out the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers who continue their business from prison.

The Cabinet Maruvas should read what the Senior DIG Police on Crimes, Organised Crime, Narcotics Range and Commandant STF said at a seminar on Transitional Organised Crime in Sri Lanka – Dar Side of the Hub, in Colombo this week. As the Daily News reported it: “In many countries, there are specific crime prevention laws that enable prisons to serve as correctional facilities, but, in Sri Lanka, we follow a prison system where a drug addict who is sent to prison for a minor drug offence, eventually leaves prison with a PhD in narcotics having made alliances with other hard core drug operators, within prison, who would have recruited him into their wider network by the time he is released.”

Mr. President, that is something you should chew on for some time, and tell your Cabinet cheer maruvas to also chew on this reality.

Doesn’t this show that if the death penalty has to be revived in this country, it must be done on those running our prisons today? Is this President, with a Green Prime Minister, not heading a government that maintains a University of Crime in our prison system, which is capable of awarding PhDs in narcotics crimes? Who should really go to the gallows?

Is it wrong to think that all this manipulation of the prison system to please the convicts there is the result of political influence and interference?

Do the politicians who are suddenly raising their voices calling for the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers give any thought to how much they are responsible for the breakdown of our legal system and the incarceration process?

Is it a big secret that those with important political connections who are condemned to prison by the courts, lead a life of luxury in those confines – which do offer them considerable comfort, and facilities, that other prisoners are denied? Are we unaware of the politicians, including a recent minister, who spent all his prison time in the Merchants Ward of the National Hospital, Colombo, till the same judge who sentenced him for contempt of court, rescinded his judgment.

There were very good reasons adduced by the SLFP founder, leader, and then Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike, to call for the abolition of the death penalty. He obtained the full support of the Sangha-Veda- Guru- Govi- Kamkaru followers for it. It was also strongly proposed and supported by the left parties – the LSSP, CP and MEP. SWRD was assassinated shortly after, and the death penalty came back.

His assassin Talduve Somarama was hanged (he died as Peter); but our society did not rush to bring back the hangman’s noose as it applied earlier. The last hanging here was in 1976, over 40 years ago. Therefore, what is this sudden nonsense to bring it back on anyone, whether imprisoned drug traffickers or any others, without thinking of modernizing our entire legal and judicial system in keeping with political, scientific and cultural thinking of today?

When there is such Cabinet supported interest in the death penalty today, is it not time to think of calling for the Hangman’s Noose – the Mara Thonduva – much better than the ‘madu valigey’, to deal with politicians? Those becoming more powerful each day with broken promises, crooked business deals, making a mockery of tender procedures, and growing richer and more powerful by the day though their crimes against the people. It is time the people gave thought to hanging crooked politicians, not in the gallows, but in public.

In a country that prides itself with a long history of religion, it is helpful if the Buddhist thinking on Compassion is considered in depth by those promoting the death penalty on repeat drug traffickers. The depth of Buddhist teaching must help in restoring them to society, and certainly against deciding against a final termination of life, with no chance for a change.

Interestingly, religion has moved into this debate, with the Catholic Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith being publicly supportive of the death penalty on repeated drug traffickers. It is good to remind the Cardinal that most advanced Christian countries do not have the death penalty, today. The predominantly Catholic Italy does not have it since 1948. The Vatican had it for many centuries, but never practiced it there. After the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been staunchly opposed to the death penalty.

The Catholic Church’s thinking is now even better. Marking the 25th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2017, Pope Francis said the death penalty, no matter how it is carried out, ‘is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel”. He said Capital punishment “heavily wounds human dignity” and “It is, in itself, contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor”.

Let us hope the Cardinal in Colombo gives a little more thought to what the Pope has said at the Vatican; and, that President Sirisena does not get more encouragement on Mara Thondu thinking, because of the Cardinal’s support.

Courtesy:The Island

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