Arthur on death penalty

Former PM believes bill is a step in the right direction

A “historic” move and an example of “enlightened pragmatism”.

That is how former Prime Minister Owen Arthur described the Offences Against the Person (Amendment) Bill, 2014 brought today to Parliament to remove the mandatory nature of the death penalty for murder.

He hailed the legislation even as he declared he was a strong supporter of the death penalty.

He made his position clear today as he joined the debate in the House of Assembly.

Former Prime Minister  Owen Arthur
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur

“I believe that every society has a duty to defend itself and the nature of some of the crimes that are being committed in modern society are of a nature that I do not feel that a country should just rob itself of the right to defend itself against the blood thirsty and those who believe that they can just pillage society. I feel so strongly,” the St Peter MP said.

“I believe that a society has a right to defend itself against those who would terrorize it. Terrorism for me has a wide definition. Children live in fear of their fathers wanting to kill their mothers. That form of terrorism is real.”

However, Arthur argued that the death penalty should not be applied for “light or wanton reasons in the same way that I do not believe that life should be taken for light or wanton reasons”.

He recalled that, despite his strong views, when his administration joined and subscribed to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, it had to balance pragmatism with enlightenment.

“This amendment is about pragmatism because we cannot rid ourselves of the responsibility, as the guardians of society, of doing that which may be necessary to protect the society,” he said.

“But enlightenment that the taking of life for whatever reason is not something that the state itself should be proud of promulgating, that it feels that it has to do. Therefore, when the matter arose in my Cabinet, I felt very strongly that no matter how I felt personally, that we had to go the way of enlightened pragmatism. This piece of legislation before Parliament is an example of enlightened pragmatism.”

Arthur said the message should go forth from the House of Assembly that the Barbados society had given true meaning to the concept of civilized development.

The Independent MP further maintained that poverty should not be used as an excuse for violence and called on Government to exercise zero tolerance to deviance.

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