by Cyril Wimalasurendre
The Anglican Church of Ceylon has taken exception to the government’s decision to resume judicial executions of repeat drug offenders.
A joint statement issued by the Bishop of Colombo Rt. Rev. Dhiloraj Canagasabey and the Bishop of Kurnegala Rt. Rev. Keerthi Fernando says, ‘The Church of Ceylon (Anglican Church) cannot, in any way, agree with the move as it has been a rushed decision without proper reflection against the backdrop of criticism and public disquiet about the spate of gang related murders and shootings in the recent days.
Full text of the statement by the Rt. Rev. Bishops is as follows:
It has been reported that the President and the Cabinet of Ministers have taken a decision to authorize prison authorities to resume the execution of those sentenced to death for drug related crimes and are yet continuing to be involved in the drug trade while in prison.
As Christians, we believe that all people are made in the image of God and are therefore imbued with the spark of the divine within them however obscured and hidden it may be. This is why the taking of human life is expressly condemned by the Church, whether be man or by the state.
The Church of Ceylon (Anglican Church) cannot therefore in any way agree with this move, which we believe has been rushed into without proper reflection in the backdrop of criticism and public disquiet about the spate of gang related murders and shootings in the recent days.
Engagement in criminal activities outside prison by convicted persons cannot take place without the connivance of prison authorities. The government cannot absolve itself from its duty to devise ways of minimizing such occurrences. It must take quick but well designed steps to put into place strong security measures to prevent such incidents and obtain services of experts here and even abroad if required. It cannot resort to hanging people to escape its own obligations.
Sri Lanka halted judicial executions more than 40 years ago. Although several governments in the past have tried to re-imposed the death penalty wiser counsel has always prevailed.
This does not mean that we are unconcerned about the drug menace. We are indeed very deeply concerned by this widespread and very dangerous threat especially to the young people of our country and its consequences on wider society.
The church is willing to join and offer our assistance to the government in this regard in the educational sector.
We therefore re-iterate our opposition to this decision. It is widely spoken including in government circles that is is the ‘sprats’ who are being caught and punished while the ‘sharks’ are allowed to remain free to carry on their business, profitable to many even politicians it is said. The law ought and must be applied in full force equally to all involved in this destructive trade