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Hanging the killer


Yesterday’s Daily Mirror had this –


“A vacancy exists for a hangman at the Welikada prison”.


Pay a guy to kill a guy who has already killed another guy? What a job.


According to the news story, an executioner will be recruited if the government plans to reintroduce the death sentence. Now that’s scary. Not helpful as some might think. And I say it for the following reason –


Firstly, I don’t really have much faith in all this law and the justice system, not just in our country but anywhere for that matter. Killing is final. If you kill a person, there’s no way of getting them back.


How certain are you that it’s the right guy behind bars? Well, in some cases it’s fine. It’s all there – the evidence, the witnesses – all pointing out that that person is indeed the criminal. But, more often than not we’ve heard of people who have been wrongly accused. Having spent years in prison, labeled a criminal and looked down by society…they walk free when the authorities find the “real” criminal.


But this is not all. What about those killers who never get caught? Backed by even more powerful groups, they murder, in the most brutal manner, and disappear into the daylight (?). 


Does the accused get to defend himself well and truly?


Secondly, is killing someone over a crime they’ve committed really the answer?


Assuming they’ve caught the real criminal, is killing him the answer? Or wouldn’t it be better to see why he did that, what made him do that, was their a choice, what other course of action could he have taken, is there a way that this particular person can be rehabilitated?


Further, true he must have killed someone, but is he really the killer – as in, was he merely carrying out someone else’s orders? So is it right to punish only him? Shouldn’t they also find the big guy and punish him too? If he’s left free, he can always find another disgruntled youth to carry out the killings. This life lost is not much for him.


Is there a lesson to be learnt in putting someone to death? Will it scare away others, or bring down the crime rate?


Thirdly, isn’t it just wrong to kill? Is killing, under any circumstances justifiable? Well, it probably is in the case of ruthless terror leaders, for example. History tells us if these men are shown even a little sympathy, there’s a chance that they would always come back, stronger and killing them is the only answer.


Recently I watched Uppalawanna (I know). A particular aspect of that film really got to me – the Bhikkuni, Uppalawanna (played by Sangeetha) treats a severely wounded young man who runs into the premises of the hermitage after killing another village boy. This act did have its not-so-good consequences. But, what Uppalawanna asked was this – true, he is a murderer, but he was dying. Is it wrong to help someone like that?


I’m not saying murderers should walk free. They should be punished. But, should they be killed?



  1. Well, there are some valid points to be raised about the death penalty….while I was studying for the Law College Entrance Exam recently, a good point was made in the coursebook….

    They say that criminals who spend some jail time will not reform as we delude ourselves into thinking. Instead, they become more hardened criminals as they mingle with other criminals and learn more sophisticated ways to avoid detection.

    However, having the death penalty in Sri Lanka is just a disaster waiting to happen. It would be OK in the West, where it is much more difficult to frame the wrong person. However, doing this in SL is as easy as throwing peanuts to a Monkey in a cage.

    However, there should be no room for parole for murderers, even if they have displayed ‘good’ behaviour while in the prison!

  2. Foxhound says:

    Well the truth is its all very subjective and complicated.

    Harsh penalties on individuals tends to instill fear in others. This is exemplified in Islamic countries with harsh Sharia Law that involves hands and other body parts being cut off. In that rationale, offenders should be punished harshly for their crimes.

    Others believe no one should be killed. It’s all grey. In some situations, making something illegal has no effect regardless of the consequences, especially when it its economically based. That’s why its impossible to ban liqueur, because bootleggers will crop up.

    A lot of other factors would also come in to consideration, but my belief is that killing should be avoided at all costs, but simply put sometimes you may have to kill.

  3. Chavie says:

    the death penalty is already in effect in Sri Lanka, through extra-judicial police killings. a large segment of the population seems to support these measures, especially when taken against brutal underworld figures renowned for their crimes. this only happens when people are disgruntled with the justice system which lets wrongdoers go free, and jails innocent men. and even if a murderer gets life imprisonment, there should be no room for parole as Cricket Tragic said, since we find that most of these criminals walk free well before the completion of their sentences.

    I agree that killing is wrong, whether done by the government or by an individual, but a death sentence given out by a judge, subject to appeal, is better than the judgment issued by the barrel of some STF dude’s gun…

  4. Dee says:

    I dunno…Sri Lanka is nowhere near the likes of America where evidence can be analyzed and justice be carried out fairly. (not taking the margin for error of course) If and when it is implemented here, I’m sure a lot of innocent people will be killed …

  5. Donald Gamnitillake says:

    Legally I do not think it is possible to execute a condemn person in Lanka. The reason is we do not know how Late President JRJ got rid of the executions in Lanka. Any documents signed by him or whether we need a referendum from the public!!!

  6. The Womanist says:

    @Cricket tragic: Yeah, I guess some criminals will never reform.. nd having the death penalty does sound a bit scary
    @Foxhound: it IS very complicated. Hope they think long and hard before hanging someone (if they decide to do that, that is)
    @Chavie: Guess so..
    @Dee: yeah, a lot of innocent people can be killed. That’s why I say the thought of having the death penalty here is kinda scary.
    @Donald: Ohh.. worth checking it out.

  7. Rannelee says:

    Interesting. Wrt Donald’s comment, yes in Sri Lanka death penalty was not practiced and the last person to that was killed, was proven not guilty at a later stage (that might not be accurate, only word of mouth).
    However I remember reading some where, not many years ago, that they are going to bring back the “Hangman” and perhaps this is the first step.

  8. The Womanist says:

    @Rannelee: It proably is..

  9. anthony says:

    You have China as an example where the death penalty has worked to a very good extent as a deterrent to crime. Just imagine if human rights had stepped in for each of the executions and the convict was finally pardoned to life sentence- It would be worse than the west where law and order is much to be desired.
    Implement it and see what the result is goin to be. You will never know till then.

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