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Statement on the resumption of executions for convicts of drug offences (16 - 07 - 2018)

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 by 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 in prisons. obtaining the 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-impose  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. In our pastoral visits  all over the island we are very often briefed of this menace and we encourage our clergy and organizations to carry out awareness programmes and join with others in doing what ever we can to protect children. 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 and we call instead on the government to vigorously combat drug smuggling and distribution at all levels in our society. It is widely spoken including in government circles, that it 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.

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The Bishop of Colombo and The Bishop of Kurunegala – The Bishops of the Church of Ceylon

(16th July 2018)



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