Sri Lanka hiring hangman despite plan to axe death penalty

Colombo: Sri Lanka today said it was close to filling a longstanding vacancy for a hangman — even though it has not executed anyone since 1976. Two candidates have been shortlisted for the job, which came vacant last year when the incumbent quit after getting cold feet on seeing the gallows.

Prisons chief Rohana Pushpakumara said a replacement would be at work “in about two weeks’ time”, although the successful candidate is not actually expected to carry out any executions. Sri Lankan courts regularly hand down death sentences for rape, murder and drug-related crimes, but these are routinely commuted to life in prison.

The country’s new government said last month it would formally abolish capital punishment as part of legal reforms. Instead the new hangman, who will make about USD 80 a month, is expected perform basic administrative duties at the main prison in Colombo. “We are not concerned about what the government wants to do with the death penalty,” Pushpakumara said when asked why he was recruiting a replacement for a hangman who will not have any work. “As far as we are concerned, we have to fill vacancies.”

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