- Bill handed over on Tuesday seeks to change any reference in law to death penalty to life imprisonment
- UNP MP Bandarigoda points out crime rates not reduced by death penalty
- Says strong legal and prison system better solution
By Ashwin Hemmathagama
United National Party (UNP) lawmaker Bandula Lal Bandarigoda challenging President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to resume the death penalty has handed over a private member bill to the Secretary-General of Parliament aimed at converting capital punishment into life imprisonment.
The bill, which was handed over on Tuesday, titled the Abolition of Death Penalty Act, proposes any reference in any law to the imposition of the death penalty or punishment by death, from and after the coming of the Act be construed as punishment by imprisonment for life. As per the transitional provisions, it is proposed that any person in respect of whom a sentence of death has been imposed prior to the coming into force of the particular Act be deemed to be a person sentenced to imprisonment for life in respect of such offence.
Any person who has committed, prior to the coming into force of the Act an offence punishable with death, but in respect of whom a sentence of punishment has not been imposed by the court, shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable with imprisonment for life.
According to MP Bandarigoda, the President has violated the first of the five precepts; undertake the rule to abstain from killing any living being, by deciding to start the gallows, which was abandoned for over four decades.
“President J.R. Jayawardene stopped hanging prisoners even though it was included in his new Constitution. Recently, neither former Presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga nor Mahinda Rajapaksa practiced this brutal punishment knowing that it will not help to bring down the number of crimes. Present day politicians have failed to effectively prevent crimes. So, hanging people will not make a difference. Now President Sirisena is trying to establish sharia law in Sri Lanka with starting to hang people,” he said.
MP Bandarigoda also highlighted the possibility that some of the prisoners in the death row could be innocent and should not be hanged. “About 53 countries still practice capital punishment. But none of these countries was able to bring the crimes down by sending people to the executioner. There were instances innocent people were executed legally in different parts of the world. Sathasivam case was a similar incident that took place in Sri Lanka decades ago,” said MP Bandarigoda who wanted to give the wrongdoers a second chance.
UNP MP Dr. Kavinda Jayawardana who was also present at the media conference endorsed the private member bill highlighting provisions in the Bible. “Jesus condemned executing people on several occasions. Jesus was crucified and it is the best example for punishing innocent people. What more do we want? We don’t have to follow the path of brutality but bring in a strong prison system where none of those who are sentenced for life will be able to engage in criminal activities while being inside the prison,” he said.