Noting that the European Union has threatened to withhold its Generalised scheme of preferences (GSP)+ concessions if Sri Lanka resumes capital punishment, President Maithripala Sirisena said today that such ultimatums are a threat to the sovereignty of the state.
“Issuing such threats against a sovereign nation like ours is not proper,” he said, speaking at the final convention and concluding ceremony of the National Drug Prevention Week held at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo this morning.
Referring to a call received from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres regarding the possible resumption of the death penalty, Sirisena said he explained to Guterres that drugs were being freely distributed even in schools and universities and rehabilitation centres were overcrowded.
“I explained to him that without extreme penalties we cannot solve this problem, which was why I signed the [execution] papers,” he said.
Retreading old ground from the immediate aftermath of the Easter Attacks, Sirisena also drew links between the international drug trade and the Easter Attacks that killed over 250 people.
Arguing that international drug traffickers maintain links with all terrorist organisations all over the world, the President expressed his belief that the suicide bombers behind the 21 April attacks had links to drug traffickers.
“In the 30 years of civil war, [LTTE Leader Velupillai] Prabhakaran’s main source of funds was international drug trafficking, and he used the money to arm the LTTE,” he said.
Commenting on his controversial drive to lift the moratarium on the death penalty to execute convicted drug smugglers, the President claimed that US President Donald Trump had noted the need to reintroduce the death penalty in the US and elsewhere in the world to eradicate the drug menance, considering four states in the US don’t enforce the death penalty.
However, only 29 out of its 50 states apart from the fenderal government and the US military have authorised capital punishment in the US.
“I did not start my fight against drugs after becoming President or Health Minister. I started this when I was working at the lowest level of government. When I first came to Parliament in 1989, I joined the Alcohol and Drug Information Center (ADIC). I have about 40 years of experience in drug prevention,” said.
“Ever year, about 50,000 people go to jail because of drugs and most of them are women. About Rs. 50 billion worth of illegal drugs get distributed within the country each year,” he added.