Sri Lanka has been having trouble finding two men with what is described as the “mental strength” to execute condemned prisoners.
While capital punishment remains on the country’s statute books, no executions have taken place since 1976. But there could be plenty of work for those appointed as hangmen because Sri Lanka has nearly 1,300 people on death row.
The BBC news service has reported that the number is expected to grow because some drug offenses have been made punishable by the death penalty.
The positions for the two executioners, advertised in a state-run newspaper, have a salary of 36,310 rupees (US$203) a month. Issued by the country’s commissioner general of prisons, the advert calls for men aged 18-45 with no prior convictions, of “excellent moral character” and “very good mind and mental strength” to apply. But the jobs have not been able to be filled for the past five years.
In 2014, an appointed hangman resigned after suffering shock when he saw the gallows. A man hired last year for the stressful task simply did not show up for work.
President Maithripala Sirisena said on Feb. 7 that he would authorize implementation of the death penalty within the next two months for those convicted of serious drug offenses. However, opposition to the move has come from various quarters, including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Religious leaders, including Catholic bishops, priests, nuns and laymen, have protested the move but also condemned the increased use of illegal drugs among schoolchildren in Sri Lanka.
Cannabis and heroin are the most widely used drugs in Sri Lanka and authorities have expressed concern that the island nation could also become a major transit point for international traffickers.
Police have arrested more than 50 people on trafficking charges since the middle of last year. Statistics of the National Dangerous Drugs Control Board show that arrests for drug crimes have been rising during the past six years.