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Sri Lanka: calling all hangmen

The Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prisons Reforms plans to advertise for two hangmen, to execute upto 800 inmates on death row.

Desanayake, the Ministry's secretary, explained,

"There are two vacancies for the hangman position after one person who held the position got a promotion, and the other retired,"

"We are planing to advertise the vacancy calling for applications by next week as we cannot keep the position vacant."

"At least 800 people convicted of murder and drugs offences could potentially be executed" 

The president must sign off on any judicial execution.

The last execution occurred in 1976, following which death sentences were invariably commuted to life imprisonment.

In 1999, then President, Chandrika Kumaratunga, attempted revived the death penalty in cases of murder and drug trafficking, however their was public criticism of such a move. She finally succeeded in 2004, riding a wave of public outrage at the assassination of a high court judge, Sarath Ambepitiya, believed to have been killed by a drug lord. Speculation was rife that the drug baron was well connected within Sri Lankan political circles. 

Over recent months, Sri Lankan activists, lawyers and politicians have reportedly been lobbying for the death penalty to be actively reinstated, in order to deal with a rise in crime over the past two years.

Sri Lanka is one of many predominantly Buddhist countries where the death penalty is legal - others include Thailand, Cambodia and Bhutan.