Security Minister Robert Montague
The death penalty debate, we see, has returned in what is clearly an unending cycle that inflames passions more than it stimulates rational discourse. That is somewhat understandable, given Jamaica’s perennial problem with crime, especially murders, committed in an environment where our justice system is struggling to cope with heavy case loads.
The current debate has been triggered by National Security Minister Robert Montague’s announcement at a police graduation last week that he is looking into the possibility of a resumption of hanging. In that address Minister Montague told guests, and by extension the nation, that he had asked his junior minister, Mr Pearnel Charles Jr, to consult with several stakeholders, including the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office, to determine if there were any “legal impediments” to the Government applying the death penalty. The measure, Mr Montague said, would form part of the Government’s crime prevention strategies aimed at creating safer communities by tackling “lawless elements”. He added that the Administration remained committed to mobilising all the resources at its disposal to wage a “relentless war” against criminal elements “intent on destroying our nation”. Minister Montague will no doubt receive widespread public support on this issue, given the number of heinous crimes committed in the country over time, and especially so since the start of this year. Readers will recall that in 2010, after the murders of eight people in the St Catherine community of Tredegar Park, as well as other brutal crimes committed in August that year, the call for a resumption of the death penalty was loud from Jamaicans living in the United States. We agree that the scum who commit these vile acts, for instance the two criminals who gunned down police corporal Judith Williams last Thursday morning, should not be allowed to simply roam free as if they did nothing wrong. Neither should the villainous individual who commissioned her murder, if the information we have received so far is proven to be true. People who have no regard for the sanctity of life, and the fact that each human being has a right to life, should be deprived of their freedom. They belong in an institution that will not only punish them, but will hopefully have some impact in reforming them into responsible adults. Against that background, we reiterate our position that the Government should look seriously at the option of having convicted murderers, especially those found guilty of the most cold-blooded, premeditated homicides, serve life sentences without the possibility of parole. That, we hope, will send a strong message to those who believe that life is theirs to take and that they can do so without facing the consequences of their action.
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