Sri Lankan PM opposes president's move to hang drug convicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's prime minister opposes a decision by the president to execute drug convicts, saying the country must conduct its affairs in a civilized manner, his office said Tuesday.

A statement from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's office said Sri Lanka under President Maithripala Sirisena has supported U.N. resolutions for a moratorium on the death penalty in 2016 and 2018.

Wickremesinghe has said he plans to discuss the matter with the Cabinet and later with the president and the speaker of Parliament.

"Unfortunately now there is a proposal to carry out the death penalty. This is against the policy of our party," the statement quoted Wickremesinghe as saying. He said other parties have also expressed their opposition to executions.

"We have to conduct ourselves as a civilized country. We plan to discuss this matter because there is public opinion against the death penalty," he said.

Sri Lanka has maintained a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.

Sirisena announced last week that he has signed the death warrants of four drug convicts and that the executions will take place soon.

Prisoners, rights groups and religious leaders have petitioned the Supreme Court to block the executions.

Sri Lanka has been grappling with drug-related crimes for many years and officials say it is being used by dealers as a transit center.

Wickremesinghe's statement also demonstrated the continued rivalry between him and Sirisena, who lead different political parties.

Sirisena won the 2015 presidential election with support from Wickremesinghe's party, but the leaders fell out later.

Sirisena abruptly sacked Wickremesinghe last year, leading to a seven-week political crisis which ended after Wickremesinghe was reinstated following legal battles and fears of prolonged economic stagnation.