Help Wanted: A Reliable Executioner in Sri Lanka
Image Credit: Flickr via Patrick Feller

Help Wanted: A Reliable Executioner in Sri Lanka


The Sri Lankan justice system is struggling to find a dedicated employee to fulfill the role of executioner. In just one year, three men have resigned from the post – despite the fact that Sri Lanka hasn’t executed anyone in more than three decades.

The original job posting, first advertised three years ago when the previous executioner was promoted to prison guard, attracted 178 applicants.

“Applicants included a man with one eye, autorickshaw drivers, retired military men, laborers and a university student whose many attempts at securing other employment had failed,” wrote The Economist. “Ten aspirants were rejected, mostly because they were too old or too young. One woman was turned down on the ground that her gender would make her too emotional. No other qualifications were required, beyond a basic school education.”

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Two shortlisted candidates, chosen late last year, stopped showing up to work shortly after being hired. The most recent to call it quits was the government’s third choice.

The 40-year-old man, after seeing the gallows for the first time, submitted a letter of resignation and stopped reporting to training. According to Chandrarathna Pallegama, Sri Lanka’s Commissioner General of Prisons, the recruit became “shocked and afraid.”

Like Japan, Sri Lanka’s preferred method of capital punishment is hanging.

“With this chap leaving, we are now in a quandary,” Pallegama told the AFP. “In case the government resumes hanging, we won’t be ready unless we can replace the hangman quickly.”

The latest to hold the position will be given one month to reconsider his decision before the government re-opens the application process. Pallegma added that, in the future, potential executioners will be shown the gallows first. If it becomes available, the job posting will be published in state-run Sinhala-language newspapers.

Sri Lanka’s last execution was in 1976, with the law suspended in 1977. The death penalty was reinstated in 2004 after the murder of a high court judge. Offenses punishable by hanging include murder, rape and drug trafficking.

Though Sri Lanka’s executioners have been able to keep a clear conscience for quite some time, at least 405 convicts are languishing on death row. A recent uptick in crime may fast-track some of them to the gallows.

“An alarming rise in child abuse, rapes, murders, and drug trafficking in the country since the 25-year war against Tamil Tiger separatists ended in 2009 has prompted some lawyers and politicians to push for the death penalty to be reintroduced,” said Reuters.

Successful applicants can look forward to an $85 a month salary.

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