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Capital punishment could put children in more danger

Published: 
Thursday, March 3, 2011

The so-called debate on the death penalty in Parliament has revealed nothing but the low calibre of this country’s politicians. Both sides are officially in favour of capital punishment, yet were unable to make the amendments they wanted in order to make hangings easier to carry out. This is one instance where political partisanship and political incompetence (in the sense of politics essentially being the art of compromise) had some good effect. That is because State killing of criminals will not help improve this country’s crime rate, let alone its moral character. In a mature democracy, moreover, a debate which involves taking the life of other human beings, even the most callous and violent ones, would not be conducted along party lines. Instead, Members of Parliament would be allowed by both sides to have a conscience vote.

Indeed, since in our system each elected MP is there by constituency and not party (in theory) they are free to vote as they choose (again in theory). There are, in fact, members on the Government side who have stated their opposition to the death penalty, but they have clearly decided—at least for now—to put their jobs above their conscience. That, too, reflects the calibre of our politicians. Most reprehensible in this latest attempt to resume hangings, however, has been the attempt by politicians, particularly Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, to   get support by highlighting the death of an eight-year-old boy. Apart from the fact that capital punishment does not reduce murders, it is also possible that resuming hangings, by increasing the society’s violent tendencies, could actually put children in more danger of being hurt or killed. But, clearly, such considerations count for nothing with a PM and a party whose main concern in staying in power.

T&T Humanist Association
www.humanist.org.tt

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