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  HOME | World (Click here for more)

Sri Lanka Interviews Prospective Hangmen in Controversial War on Drugs

COLOMBO – Scores of applicants will be interviewed for two hangman jobs in Sri Lanka as part of President Maithripala Sirisena’s contentious war on drugs.

The Sri Lankan prison department said on Monday that it will interview 79 shortlisted candidates for two executioner roles in April.

A total of 102 people applied for the vacancies in the south Asian island country, according to local authorities.

Sirisena has repeatedly declared his intention to carry out the death penalty on drug offenders, more than 40 years after the country’s last state-sanctioned executions.

He also vowed to put his signature on the death sentence orders, which would need his sanction to be carried out.

Sirisena announced plans to tackle the country’s growing drug problem last month and said he was inspired by the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

The move was widely condemned by the international community, with Amnesty International describing it as a “violation of international law.”

The human rights organization said in a statement that the plans “risk heading in the wrong direction and joining a shrinking minority of states that persist with the practice.”

It added: “There is no evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent against crime. Executions are never the solution and for drug-related offenses, constitute a violation of international law. Sri Lanka should choose a more humane and just path.”

Sri Lanka has become a transit point for drugs, with different kinds of narcotics being smuggled in via deep sea routes, according to the Police Narcotic Bureau (PNB).

Traffickers use fishermen with dingy boats to smuggle illegal substances into the country, the PNB said.

“The traffickers hand over the goods to be smuggled to multi-day fishing trawlers which are then passed on to fishermen in dinghy boats in mid-seas to avoid detection and prosecution. The dinghy boats have no issue reaching land from anywhere and go undetected,” the PNB Director Senior Superintendent of Police T.A.C Dhanapala told EFE.

Heroin is mostly brought into Sri Lanka for local consumption, while cocaine is smuggled in from Latin America and re-exported, he said.

Heroin, which has a high street value in Sri Lanka, comes from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The PNB is investigating the Bangladeshi link after the arrest of two traffickers with the largest ever heroin haul (294kg) in possession, Dhanapala said.

Cocaine is mostly smuggled into the country through import cargo from Brazil before being shipped out to East Asia, Dhanapala added.

“Sri Lanka’s port is known as a low-risk port, many containers go undetected. These come especially in sugar containers brought to the country,” he said.

Sri Lanka is investing in high-end equipment for monitoring ports, according to local authorities.

Sirisena also said he is spearheading a Philippine-style rehabilitation program to accommodate more than 30,000 drug abusers.

“I saw the massive scale rehab centers they have set up, many drug abusers would come and check themselves in to avoid prosecution. That is what I want to do here as well, our rehabilitation facilities are not enough,” he said at a recent press conference.


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