Caribbean states case on hanging
September 28, 1999
Not everyone will agree with the Attorney-General of Trinidad and Tobago, Ramesh Maharaj, that the death penalty is not a human rights issue, simply because those who oppose its imposition have tended to maintain that the death penalty (hanging) is cruel and inhuman punishment. As such, it will qualify as a human rights issue. That apart, Maharaj remains adamant that the Caribbean governments will retain the death penalty because this is what the majority of its people want.
He has called on those countries outside the region, that have been calling for its abolition, to accept the democratic right of Caribbean people to keep the death penalty in place.
Maharaj speaking recently at the 12th Commonwealth Law Conference in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, pointed out that there is no international consensus on the abolition of the death penalty and emphasised the “abolition of the death penalty is not a matter to be taken lightly” by Caribbean governments since it was linked to their efforts to maintain law and order.
It is most unlikely that anything Maharaj said will change the outlook of a country like Britain which it is known favours the abolition of the death penalty.
The Labour Government has however indicated that they prefer to use persuasion rather than economic pressure.
Feeling on this issue is so strong among a number of British parliamentarians in the opposition that they have been suggested that any aid the British Government gives to countries in the Caribbean should be linked to the abolition of the death penalty.
Reversal of positions on the death penalty issue is not something that will occur in the near future and the war of words will continue.
Maharaj is certain that the Caribbean governments will not change their position but it was interesting to see that the Trinidad and Tobago attorney general was indicating that there would be no yielding under pressure.
This stand on his part is quite different from that when he was confronted with issues from the Shiprider agreement and willingly gave in to US pressure on matters that Barbados insisted would be an infringement of its sovereignty as a nation.
At that time Maharaj maintained that sovereignty was not everything. Still it is the sovereign right of nations that allows them to devise laws considered necessary for maintaining law and order.
A © page from: Guyana: Land of Six Peoples