JO - Decide now! Senator says time is ripe for Gov't, Opposition to debate hanging.
Senator says time is ripe for Gov't, Opposition to debate hanging
ALICIA DUNKLEY, Observer staff reporter email@example.com
Saturday, May 10, 2008
NICHOLSON. we need to have a full constructive debate
SENATOR A J Nicholson, the former attorney general and minister of justice, says the time is ripe for both the Government and Opposition to decide whether or not capital punishment should resume, especially in the face of the growing crime rate.
"We need the debate on capital punishment, and we are not talking about for partisan political purposes. We need that debate because three-quarters of the persons in Jamaica say they wish for capital punishment to be resumed so we need to have a full constructive debate so that the people of Jamaica can know what are the parameters," Nicholson told the Senate yesterday.
Attorney General and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, in responding to Nicholson, said the question of the death penalty was being addressed by the administration, which was elected last September.
Lightbourne said a resolution was being drafted and would be taken to the House before the Charter of Rights is debated.
The Government had indicated last year that members of the House and Senate, instead of voting along party lines, would be asked to vote by conscience on the death penalty.
Nicholson's suggestion of a debate on capital punishment came during debate on the 2005 Firearms (Amendment) Act which, though passed in 2005, was never gazetted and was therefore not brought into force. An amendment was therefore sought to the bill to validate and confirm the actions of all persons who acted under the assumption that the Act was in force as well as indemnify bodies such as the Firearms Licensing Authority and the Review Board against any claims that might be made against them on the basis that the enabling legislation was not yet in force.
Sections 34 and 44 of the Act, which addressed the matter of the duration of licences granted and the payment of annual duty on the licence, were also amended.
The sections are being amended so that a licence would have a duration of five years, expiring on the birthday of the licensee, where the licence was granted on the birthday of the holder or during a period of 30 days before that birthday. Where the licence was granted after the holder's birthday it will initially expire four years after the holders next birthday. The Act is being amended for the ninth time since Independence.
Nicholson told the Senate that the discussion on the Firearms Bill had provided an ideal opening for the resurrection of the capital punishment debate as "overtime the firearm has become as commonplace an instrument of daily life as a water jar, a bucket or a slingshot".
Said the Opposition senator: "The firearm has become an instrument of pervasive destruction in such a way that it has found its way into our popular cultural expressions in almost all of their forms. It has become the main instrument of the settlement of disputes - large and small - and in short it is wreaking havoc in our country; the land is soaked with the blood of victims of firearms".
The former attorney general said a recent poll found that 71 per cent or almost three quarters of the persons polled were in favour of capital punishment to be resumed.
"It is not many areas of public life that you are going to find a poll taken and you get 71 per cent, almost three quarters of the persons polled agreeing on any single issue. It means then that it is not something the Government or the Opposition can ignore," he said.
He suggested that the debate be taken before discussions on the Charter of Rights Bill which was tabled in the House by Prime Minister Bruce Golding in November of last year began.
"I am asking for that debate to come to the fore even before the Charter of Rights Bill comes to be discussed. It wouldn't detract from what would flow from a debate on capital punishment if it is done sooner rather than later," Nicholson told senators.
Nicholson said, too, that there was also a need for the Government to at this time advise as to its vision concerning the eradication of the "pervasive gun culture".Jamaica last hanged a murder convict in 1988, under the then Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government led by Edward Seaga.
Police statistics showed that up to the end of April this year 489 people were murdered, most of them by the gun.