As with every emotive issue, capital punishment is being mauled by the partisans – haul and pull, twist and turn. Truth-seekers are confused and bewildered and are left wondering, who is preaching truth and who error, because diametrically opposed views – pro and anti-capital punishment – can’t both be right. Based on the spin by the anti-capital punishment lobby, truth-seekers should not be faulted for assuming that the ONLY way to carry out capital punishment is to hang them! But hanging is not synonymous with capital punishment; in many US states the convicted murderer has a choice.
The anti-lobby’s twining of hanging with capital punishment is strategic. Their aim is to “shock and awe” with its barbarity, a preemptive strike – projecting capital punishment in the most unfavourable light possible – ghastly, inhumane and barbarous! Most reasonable people would freely admit that HANGING (not capital punishment) is indeed backward, barbarous and inhumane. The very thought of public executions – parading the perpetrators dangling from the end of the rope, neck breaking, gasping for breath, life expiring, would bring pleasure only to voyeurs and the most cold hearted sadist amongst us. Most of us who support capital punishment are not blood thirty.
What we want is JUSTICE both for the victims and also the perpetrators. We believe those who take innocent life ought to be severely punished as prescribed by law when convicted. Polls after polls have revealed that more than 80 per cent of Jamaicans support capital punishment. But some parliamentarians and their allies in civil society continue to disregard the wishes of the majority and have instead promulgated a philosophy that teaches only mercy but not justice. The truth of the matter is, justice and mercy are inseparable; when someone takes innocent life he forfeits his right to determine his fate. By violating his neighbour’s right to life, he places his destiny in the hands of others who determine whether mercy or justice or both should prevail.
The opposition leader, Portia Simpson Miller, suggested that if the motion was carried, a humane method of carrying out the execution should be found (lethal injection, the electric chair etc.) and the gallows should be left to rot. I support this position. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, she has once more given fodder to her detractors and made herself irrelevant by absence/dodging from parliament when her leadership and presence mattered most.
She has once again managed to attract ridicule while simultaneously deflecting scrutiny off the government, under pressure, from a populace paralyzed by crime. Her absence from the conscience vote is inopportune and it suggests the need of a new set of handlers/advisers – she needs a new kitchen cabinet! The government when in opposition promised a speedy resumption of hanging upon their return. This was one of many flippant campaign promises made by politicians on both sides of the isle, during the silly season, leading up to the last general election. The Holy Bible states “my people are dying from lack of knowledge…”
But in Jamaica we have to rephrase it: “my people are dying from dishonesty!” It has become quite apparent that the movers and shakers in Jamaica have very little interest in seeking, speaking, and/or seeking out truth.
Therefore, we can expect in the coming days a lot more heat in parliament and on the verandas of the middle class, but very little if any light shed or practical solutions offered to resolve our most pressing needs, foremost of which is CRIME AND VIOLENCE. Jamaicans need to learn how to honestly and dispassionately discuss substantive issues in this country.
Let us start the process of renewal with the six crime bills. Crime and violence must be drastically reduced in the short run if this country is to remain habitable. Let us see if we can discuss them in a solutions oriented manner; while also taking into account the glaring incompetencies and inadequacies in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. And let us leave one-upmanship behind this time around. It is time for all hands on deck.