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Wednesday, December 04, 2013
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Al-Rawi responds to PM: Death penalty already law in T&T
The People’s Partnership has been in Government for four years and has not hanged one single human being, when existing law says it can be done, and has not given any explanation. Furthermore, if the Government wants to know how to do it, it can get advice from former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj who hanged 11 people under the present law.
This was the response of PNM PRO Senator Faris Al-Rawi when asked if the Opposition will support Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s plan to take death penalty legislation to Parliament again. The PM told the media at Duncan Street on Thursday that the implementation of the death penalty can be a deterrent to crime. Al Rawi said that was just mamaguy. He said there is no need to amend any legislation to enforce the death penalty which is already law.
“The Government’s statements about taking death penalty legislation to Parliament stands in a vacuum of logic because the existing law makes hanging lawful for murder and treason.” He said there’s a simple way to get past the Privy Council judgment from the Pratt and Morgan case which convicted death row prisoners often use to get off.
The judgment in this case states a person cannot be hanged five years after his conviction. Al-Rawi said to escape the Pratt and Morgan bite, all the Government has to do is take a convicted man from the High Court to the gallows in under five years. He said with sufficient resources, it can be done. The Government had brought an amendment to the Capital Offences Bill in 2011 seeking to categorise murders so that the heinous ones would attract the death penalty.
The Opposition argued against it saying it would get the Privy Council involved which would then be in a position to scrap the death penalty completely. Commenting on the Government’s anti-crime plans for Duncan Street, Al Rawi said: “The PNM is warmed that the Government has finally condescended to treat with the crime situation in T&T.
“But it is a habit of the government to announce new crime plans when it has never indicated what the old plans are. The country is yet to be regaled with the specifics of any crime plan after the implementation of the state of emergency in 2011.” He said the government dismantled the anti-gang unit when it dismantled the Special Anti-crime Unit of T&T (Sautt), set up under the former PNM administration.
The unit had full implementation with proven results on Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain, a crime hot spot, he said. He said 69 gang members were arrested and are, at present, in prison awaiting trial. Al-Rawi said there is problem in the former Sautt officers coming to give evidence against them because they were all fired.
Doma: Hangings not the way to go
Until crime is solved, the death penalty will do little or have no effect on crime in the country, the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (Doma) says. In a press release yesterday, Doma said: “Until and unless the failure to make arrests is recognised as the central cause of this gruesome state of affairs, then we regret to prophesise that announcements regarding the death penalty or hanging will have little or no effect on the vicious state of affairs in our beloved Trinidad & Tobago.”
The association said the subject of the death penalty was raised by successive governments with little effect on the country’s crime problem. It said while it sympathised with government ministers, including Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, “we consider it unwise to allow the occasional invocation of a new wave of hanging to be discussed as if somehow this will bring an end to the blood in the street that is flowing so freely.”
The statement came the day after Persad-Bissessar announced that the government intended to discuss the issue of hanging with the Opposition PNM once again, saying she believed it could possibly act as a deterrent to murders. The PM made the comment during a tour of Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain, on Thursday.
Yesterday, Doma said the death penalty can have no effect unless it is able to threaten convicted murders with that punishment. But it asked how could the country make anyone fearful of hanging if, “we are unable to solve less than ten per cent of murder cases?” It said the discussion of the reintroduction of the death penalty may be interpreted as desperation, or worse, “a lack of respect for the common sense of citizens.”
The association said it wished to bring to the country’s attention the “abysmal detection rate” and the “total failure to make any arrests or to provide any convictions for the most heinous of crimes.” It said as a consequence of “allowing criminals to go free repeatedly,” a cycle of violence is being created, since families and friends of victims seek their own justice through revenge, which has “accelerated the multiple daily murders that are becoming so common.”
“So bad is the significance of this failed justice, that we know of other jurisdictions where whole families are sometimes assassinated and/or an entire community is attacked and the residents are forced to barricade the streets in order to protect themselves from outsiders seeking vengeance,” it said.
“The possibility of this type of state of affairs, given our low detection rates, is very real in the circumstances that exist in Trinidad and Tobago. The firebombing of houses and apartments is evidence of the likelihood of this type of scenario becoming a common reality in the not distant future.”
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