Asia

Sri Lanka hires new hangmen for 'light administrative duty'

Sri Lankan prisoners look on during an event to celebrate Sinhalese and Tamil New Year at a prison complex in Colombo on April 24, 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Inmates at Colombo jail - more than 1,100 prisoners are on death row in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka says it has hired two new executioners to replace the previous hangman, who quit shortly after seeing the gallows for the first time.

Two other hangmen hired in 2013 failed to show up for work.

The country has not executed anyone since 1976 and the role is described as "light administrative work only".

"In the event the government wants to carry out executions, we should be prepared," said Prisons Commissioner General Rohana Pushpakumara.

Although there are 1,116 convicts on death row, death sentences have been routinely commuted to life in jail for the past 40 years and Sri Lanka last month officially acknowledged it was no longer carrying out capital punishment.

However, there have been calls to bring the death penalty back after a sharp rise in child abuse, rape, murder and drug trafficking since the end of the civil war in 2009.

Last week the government made it clear it was against the move, although President Sirisena said he would support it if parliament approved it because the public was in favour, BBC Sinhala's Azzam Ameen in Colombo reports.

'I won't hesitate'

Only 14 of the 24 applicants attended the job interview, Mr Pushpakumara told BBC Sinhala.

"I'm angry at drug traffickers, murderers and those who rape children, so I will not hesitate a moment if I am asked to execute them," said one of the applicants, a former soldier. "If they are not implementing the death penalty then I will quit."

Another said he was attracted by the light workload.

"Even if they want me to execute someone I am ready, but it looks unlikely," he said.

The position of executioner fell vacant in 2014 when the previous hangman quit citing stress soon after seeing the gallows in the capital Colombo.

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