Priest: Sirisena, as a Buddhist, should be against the death penalty
by Melani Manel Perera

Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando: "It is useless to reintroduce capital punishment, hate generates hatred". The government has canceled a moratorium in force for 43 years. The provision after a meeting with his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte. A nun proposes alternative penalties to hanging.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - The President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, "claims to be a fervent Buddhist, but does not seem to have understood the message of the Buddha": Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando (photo 1), well-known human rights activist and expert on socio-political phenomena. 

The priest, formerly chaplain of the Young Christian Workers Movement, comments with AsiaNews about the head of state's decision to resume capital executions.

Last January 31, Sirisena announced that his government has canceled a moratorium in force for 43 years. While officials are already engaged in the search for two executioners, the first to risk death by hanging are drug dealers and drug traffickers held in prisons on the island. 

The president's choice, by his own admission, matured after a meeting with his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte. He is the promoter of a fierce war on drugs, which in the Philippines has so far caused over 5,000 official deaths (but for the activists the victims are more than 12 thousand).

"Hatred generates hatred and the reintroduction of the death penalty will not stop the drug trade", says Fr. Fernando. "In this way a just society will not be created. It is sad to note that the leaders of many religious denominations seem to support its provision. Perhaps, these are not up to their founders in solving this crisis ".

Sr. Jesmin Fernando (photo 2), provincial superior of the Holy Family Association, also expressed her disappointment at the announced resumption of the death penalty. "I disagree," says the nun. "Every life has value in itself, there is always the possibility to go back and start a new life. There must be a way to punish those involved in trafficking and drug dealing. In my opinion, this could be the detention in an isolation regime and under strict surveillance for a certain period of time. Furthermore, the properties or money earned by inmates in their illicit activities could be used for their rehabilitation. Finally, they should publicly admit that their wrong actions and the people behind them".