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Members of Parliament (MPs) are to vote on Tuesday (Nov. 25), to decide whether the country retains or abolishes the death penalty, as Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, yesterday (Nov.19) called for a suspension of the conscience vote during the sitting of the House of Representatives.
“This issue is so important that I don’t think that any harm would be done if a few days on the weekend are allowed for members to reflect, to think and, important, despite the fact that it is a conscience vote, for persons to allow their conscience to be shaped and formed and influenced by (the) views of members of the public and interest groups,” Mr. Golding said.
He also thanked the more than 40 MPs who participated in the debate over the past four sittings of the Lower House.
“It has been a long and expansive debate and I want to express my own appreciation for the level of participation. It is an important issue; it is an issue with which many countries have wrestled for many decades and it is an issue which we in this Parliament have wrestled with for over 30 years, and therefore I think it is appropriate we have given the level of attention that we have,” Mr. Golding said.
Meanwhile during the debate, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles, supported the death penalty and noted that since 1989 a total of 20,043 Jamaicans have been murdered.
“I have a job and a voice for those who need protection and while I am here, speaking now, and while I have a chance to shout out, I am going to say, I am on the side of our women and children who are being murdered, (and) raped,” he added. He noted that as a country there is a need to move swiftly to stem the state of hopelessness and fear.
Opposition Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Thomas, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, also noted that he “must support the retention of capital punishment.”
Minister of State in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Andrew Gallimore, who is against the death penalty, informed that there is no statistical evidence to support the death penalty.
“The fact of the matter is that hanging people five six or eight years from now is not going to stop (murder) from happening again. When we make a mistake with a pen, we can erase it with whiteout, when we make it with a pencil it comes with an eraser, when you kill an innocent man and when the state takes it upon itself and kills an innocent man you cannot do anything to make that right. The state cannot pay any compensation for that life,” Mr. Gallimore said.
The State Minister said convicted murderers should be allowed to pay their debt to society. “I don’t want to hang them and make them into a martyr and see their face on the side of a building for people to look up to them. I don’t want them to leave on the top of their game, I want us to make them the joke in that same community where they used to be the one respected,” he said.
While the death penalty is still on the law books, there has not been an execution in Jamaica since the late 1980s.