Corporal punishment for Parliamentary debate
-govt. against its abolishment
Kaieteur News
December 1, 2006

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The divisive issue of corporal punishment will be the subject of debate when the 65-Member Parliament meets next Thursday.

Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon, stated yesterday that the government, which has the majority in the National Assembly, is not in favour of banning corporal punishment from the school system.

The Parliamentary debate was prompted by a Motion submitted by Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament Chantalle Smith. The Motion is seeking a declaration from the National Assembly that the continued use of corporal punishment in schools is a violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The AFC is supportive of the abolishment of corporal punishment under the new Education Act, which will bring Guyana in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

After a series of recently held, comprehensive, countrywide consultations aimed at facilitating parental and community participation on the issue, a recent study by the Ministry of Education indicated that the Guyanese populace is deeply divided on whether or not to abolish corporal punishment.

“In the absence of a patently discernable rejection of corporal punishment by rank and file Guyanese, it is most unlikely that the administration will go out on a limb to implement and find some justification for so doing,” Dr. Luncheon stated.

He added that corporal punishment can be an emotive issue.

“But our concern is deeply rooted in an abiding conviction by most Guyanese that corporal punishment has a role in the disciplining of our children,” Dr. Luncheon stated.

The government has drafted a comprehensive plan to guide schools in the administering of corporal punishment, especially since it has the potential for abuse.

Corporal punishment is also on the statutes. The courts have the power to implement corporal punishment on some criminals. Yesterday, Dr Luncheon said that over the past decade, there has been a decline in sentencing that included corporal punishment. He said that this non-application does not mean that corporal punishment is abolished.

The use of the cat-o-nine tails might have been abolished when there were certain constitutional amendments given the emotional link to slavery and cruel and inhuman treatment.

Thursday's sitting of the National Assembly is also expected to see the tabling of Financial Bills for Supplementary Provision from the Consolidated Fund, and another motion on the National Development Strategy is also slated to be debated.

Government will also table a Bill to postpone Local Government Elections, which were scheduled to be held this year.

Local Government elections were last held in 1994, and several issues have been blamed for their not being held since, including the breakdown of bilateral talks between the government and the People's National Congress/Reform.

Dr. Luncheon stated that the failure to appoint the Committee of Selection continues to impact negatively on the oversight function of Parliament.