Holness' comments on death penalty 'ill-advised' — PNPTuesday, November 30, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The People's National Party says the prime minister's speech regarding the mandatory death penalty for people found in possession of an illegal firearm is an indication that he may be a demagogue.
A demagogue is a political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational arguments.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness shared that criminals convicted for illegal possession of a firearm should be put to death for their sentence. The announcement has since received public backlash with citizens calling for harsher penalties for corruption within Government.
In a statement on Tuesday, chairman of PNP's Human Rights Commission Isat Buchanan said the prime minister sought to titillate his audience from the conference platform by proposing fundamental changes to laws that have no practical chance of ever being implemented, but which could be relied on to draw frenzied applause from his conference audience.
“A prime minister who stirs public expectations in a manner which is offensive to the Constitution would do well to remember his own oath to protect the constitution that appointed him. Indeed, the prime minister is himself a creature of the Constitution,” the PNP said.
“The reality is that the prime minister's applause-seeking proposals will not pass any serious legal examination. He has at least two well-known queen counsel who support him, who would do well to remind him that the case authorities have clearly defined what type of cases are appropriate for the death penalty,” he continued.
The Opposition said the prime minister's ill-advised comments fly in the face of the guidance provided by our highest court, the Privy Council, in Trimmingham v The Queen  UKPC 25, which articulated the exacting principle of 'the worst of the worst' in distilling the criteria for applying the death penalty.
“A mandatory death penalty is constitutionally offensive for many reasons which can be easily identified by a first-year law student. It is not by chance that the death penalty has not been carried out in Jamaica since 1988, 33 years ago.”
The PNP also labelled the Senate president's speech as a “wild and unprecedented rant” about the Opposition Senators' decision not to blindly follow the lead of the JLP in disregarding the Constitution, and not to violate the fundamental doctrine of separation of powers by disrespecting the unfinished processes of the court.
“We hope that their comments are not indications of mission creep into a totalitarian society where the privileged and the connected make unjust laws that unfairly target and affect the poor majority in the false name of crime-fighting.
“The JLP's approach is a timely reminder of their wanton disrespect and disregard for the Constitution. It reinforces the importance of safeguards in our laws to prevent demagogues from having their way with our hard-fought rights,” the PNP said.