Centre for Policy Alternatives on 19 July, 2018

Civil Society Concerned with Implementing the Death Penalty & Providing Police Powers to the Military

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19th July 2018, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The undersigned civil society activists and groups in Sri Lanka express our deep concern about the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers to take steps towards implementing the death penalty. The death penalty has not been implemented in Sri Lanka since 1976, though it continues to remain as a punishment for certain categories of offences. According to media reports, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Maithripala Sirisena to take steps towards implementing the death penalty regarding persons who have been sentenced to death for drug offences and “who continue to operate the drug racket from their prison cells”.

We reiterate the objections made by several stakeholders in stating that;

  • There is no empirical evidence to support the assertion that the death penalty has a deterrent value and that it reduces crime;
  • Once imposed the death penalty cannot be reversed as such individuals could to be punished with death for crimes they did not commit;
  • Enforcing the death penalty is contrary to Sri Lanka’s international obligations; and
  • It is not the way a civilised society deals with crime, especially complicated crime in the nature of trafficking narcotics.

In this regard we welcome the observations of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) contained in letter dated 13th July 2018 addressed to President Sirisena which echoes the its previous letter to President Sirisena in January 2016 requesting him to take steps to abolish the death penalty. We urge the President, Prime Minister and the other members of the Cabinet of Ministers to seriously consider these recommendations by the HRCSL, which is statutorily mandated to advise the government in matters relating to the promotion and protection of human rights.

We are also concerned by a proposal reportedly approved by the Cabinet of Ministers at its meeting on 10th July 2018 to draft legislation that would allow the security forces to exercise some police powers for a period of two years to purportedly help the Police in “eradicating the drug menace in the country”. The military exercising police powers is unacceptable in a context where there is no on-going armed conflict. Military involvement in civilian activities has been a problem in post war Sri Lanka and the Government of Sri Lanka since 2010 has continuously promised to reduce the role of the military in civilian life. Whilst progress in this regard has been slow, this proposal if passed into law would be a mistake and a step in the wrong direction. The military’s training does not equip it to carry out policing functions effectively, as was seen when the military was summoned to deal with a protest in Rathupaswala in 2013, forcing the military to engage in policing functions can have disastrous consequences. Whilst the proposed bill is for a specific period of time, Sri Lanka’s experience with other similar legislation has shown that these types of laws eventually become a permanent fixture in the legal system.

There is no doubt about the need to curb narcotics in Sri Lanka, however the response of the Government of Sri Lanka needs to be carefully considered so as not to exacerbate existing problems. If the Government of Sri Lanka is serious about dealing with narcotics and drug trafficking it needs to among other things, focus on training the Police to deal with narcotics related crime and invest in modern equipment and technology to help investigations. The Government of Sri Lanka also needs to address the strong perception in society that politicians are involved in trafficking narcotics and/or are direct beneficiaries of money derived from such activities. Implementing the death penalty and using the security forces would do little to solve the problem and in the long run would only compound the rule of law problems in Sri Lanka.



  1. D. Rajani
  2. R.A Ramees
  3. Aaranya Rajasingam
  4. Ainslie Joseph
  5. Anithra Varia
  6. Annouchka Wijesinghe
  7. Anoma Wijewardene
  8. Anushaya Collure
  9. Aritha Wickramasinghe
  10. Asma Rahman
  11. Gowthaman
  12. Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
  13. Bhavani Fonseka
  14. Brito Fernando
  15. Chandra Jayaratne
  16. Chandraguptha Thenuwara
  17. Chulani Kodikara
  18. Cyril Pathiranage
  19. Danesh Casie Chetty
  20. Deanne Uyangoda
  21. Deekshya Illangasinghe
  22. Daya Somasundaram
  23. P. Saravanamuttu
  24. Selvy Thiruchandran
  25. Faaiz Ameer
  26. J. M. Joseph Jeyaseelan
  27. Sarath Iddamalgoda
  28. Gamini Viyangoda
  29. Godfrey Yogarajah
  30. Iromi Perera
  31. Ishara Danasekara
  32. Jayanta de S Wijeratne
  33. Jayanthi Samaraweera Gunewardena
  34. Jeanne Samuel
  35. Juwairiya Mohideen
  36. Aingkaran
  37. S. Ratnavale
  38. Lahiru Kithalagama
  39. Lionel Guruge
  40. Luwie Ganeshathasan
  41. Mahaluxmy Kurushanthan
  42. Mario Gomez
  43. Mujeebur Rahman
  44. Nagulan Nesiah
  45. Nigel Nugawela
  46. Muthulingam
  47. Prabodha Rathnayaka
  48. Jayadeva Uyangoda
  49. Raisa Wickrematunge
  50. Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe
  51. Rohana Jayaratne
  52. Rohini Weerasinghe Weerasinghe
  53. Ruki Fernando
  54. P Pushpakanthan
  55. Sakina Moinudeen
  56. Sampath Samarakoon
  57. Sandun Thudugala
  58. Sanjana Hattotuwa
  59. Sarah Arumugam
  60. Selvaraj Rajasegar
  61. Senel Wanniarachchi
  62. Shalini Wickramasuriya
  63. Shalomi Daniel
  64. Sharanya Sekaram
  65. Shreen Saroor
  66. Noeline Christine Fernando
  67. Subha Wijesiriwardena
  68. Sumika Perera
  69. Sunela Jayewardene
  70. Sunethra Bandaranaike
  71. Tanuja Thurairajah
  72. Samuel J. Ponniah


  1. Alliance Development Trust
  2. Centre for Human Rights Development
  3. Centre for Policy Alternatives
  4. Families of the Disappeared
  5. Hashtag Generation
  6. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
  7. Institute of Social Development
  8. International Centre for Ethnic Studies
  9. Law and Society Trust
  10. Manawa Shakthi Padanama, Galle
  11. Mannar Women’s Development Federation
  12. Muslim Women Development Trust
  13. National Peace Council
  14. Rights Now Collective for Democracy
  15. Rural Development Foundation
  16. The Grassrooted Trust
  17. Women’s Action Network
  18. Women’s Resource Centre