Sri Lanka lawmaker tables Private Member’s Motion to abolish death penalty

A lawmaker of the ruling party of Sri Lanka government today tabled a Private Member’s Motion in parliament to abolish the death penalty.

The motion was presented to Parliament by United National Party Parliamentarian Bandula Lal Bandarigoda.

Non-cabinet Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Dr. Harsha de Silva tweeted that motion can be challenged in courts by anyone once it is gazetted.

“We tabled UNP MP Bandulal Bandarigoda private members motion to abolish death penalty in Sri Lanka. Now once it’s gazetted anyone can challenge it in Courts. If so, once we get it cleared from Courts, we can debate in Parliament and if a majority supports, make it law.”

The bill proposes the reference in any law to the imposition of the death penalty or, punishment by death, to be construed as punishment by imprisonment for life from and after the coming into force of the Act.

Further, “any person, in respect of whom a sentence of death has been imposed prior to the coming into force of this Act, shall 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 yet been imposed by Court, shall be deemed to have committed an offence punishable with imprisonment for life.”

Sri Lanka courts hand out death sentences to convicts of serious crimes according to the current laws but the island nation has not carried out any executions since 1976.

Following President Maithripala Sirisena’s adamant decision to execute only prisoners on death row convicted for drug related crimes, several fundamental rights petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court requesting the apex to issue an interim injunction preventing the implementation of the death sentence.

The top court in response has issued an interim order staying any executions until October 30.

The President’s decision has been condemned by various local as well as international parties including the US, EU, UK, Canada and human right organizations.

The Sri Lankan government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, pointing out that Sri Lanka in December 2018 voted in favor of a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty at the UN General Assembly, as well as the Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had announced their opposition to implementing the death sentence after a 43-year moratorium.

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