Samuda slams critics of SOEs
Senator supports 30-year mandatory prison sentences for convicted murderers
Government Senator Matthew Samuda making his contribution to the state of the nation debate last Friday (Photo: JIS)

GOVERNMENT senator Matthew Samuda has come out in strong support of the proposal by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to introduce legislation for a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 30 years for people convicted of murder.

Making his presentation to the state of the nation debate in the Senate last Friday, Samuda slammed critics of the proposal as he argued that this was a necessary step to send a strong signal to criminals.

"Mr President, not surprisingly, there has been the usual push back from some stakeholders to the potential solutions to the problem of violent crime. Indeed, Jamaicans For Justice has accused the Administration of running the risk of causing the legislature to impose itself upon judicial functions. I strongly disagree with that narrative," said Samuda.

"In the context of our high murder rate over many years, it is full time that the Jamaican State, via the executive and legislative branches, send a strong message regarding its unwillingness to tolerate slaps on the wrist for people found guilty of perpetrating heinous crimes.

"It is good that this Administration has sent a message to those who bring long lasting pain to law-abiding members of society, by imposing a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years for those found in possession an illegal gun. I unequivocally support the mandatory minimum penalty imposed for gun offences and indeed declare today that the mandatory minimum penalty of 30 years behind bars for murders cannot happen soon enough," added Samuda as he called on his colleagues to continue taking a stand in the interest of the law-abiding citizens of Jamaica.

"We have chosen their side and it is a matter of public record that societies which, among other measures, are prepared to send strong messages in terms of its law to deal with violent crime, generally are successful in taming the crime monster."

Samuda pointed to the case of correctional officer Jimel Westney who was fatally stabbed inside the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre on November 13, 2020.

According to Samuda, he was recently advised that the man who killed Westney pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.

He noted that at the time of Westney's murder he had oversight for the Correctional Service and recently received a message from the slain warder's mother.

"She reflected on how his life was brutally taken by an inmate. She felt it unjust that the man who took her son's life was sentenced to only 10 years behind bars. She's in deep pain and feels wronged by the justice system," Samuda said.

"I understand that sometimes plea deals are arrived at, and at times sentences are influenced by mitigating circumstances, but I must confess I feel the pain of Jimel Westney's mother and understand why, in this instance, she feels wronged by the system, and she's not alone," declared Samuda.

"Generally speaking, it is true that many times the courts hand down sentences which appear just and I commend our judiciary for their commitment to putting in the hard work under sometimes challenging circumstances. Indeed, many of our judges are among the best in the world.

"However, it is also true that there are instances where it appears to me that the sentences handed down to brutal killers support the case for the executive branch and the legislature, as a matter of policy, to contemplate the brutality of some who exist among us and draw a line in the sand," he said.

"Regardless of what groups such as Jamaicans For Justice may say, let me reiterate, I support the call for a 30-year mandatory minimum penalty for murderers in Jamaica. A mandatory minimum penalty for violent crimes is a useful tool for social engineering," he argued.

Samuda also used his presentation to bash the Opposition People's National Party for its stance of the states of emergency (SOEs) introduced by the Holness Administration on the advice of the leadership of the security forces.

Pointing to the state of emergency imposed by the Michael Manley Administration in 1976, Samuda charged that was a vicious and corrupt abuse of power against political opponents and the Jamaican citizenry.

He argued that the picture painted by Opposition senators of the 1976 SOE as one that was necessary and properly enforced, was far from the truth.

"It is important that the record be set straight. There was nothing just or appropriate about the declaration and enforcement of the 1976 state of emergency," charged Samuda, who was obviously still peeved over the decision by Opposition senators not to support a resolution to extend the SOEs which were imposed on November 15.

Samuda also dismissed suggestions by the Opposition that the ongoing FIFA World Cup is responsible for a decline in murders during the period of the SOEs.

"In the context of major and consistent decline in murders in police divisions over the past few years where the Administration has declared states of public emergency, for the Opposition to now claim that the most recent decline was due to a sporting event which is not held at the same time as the greatest number of murders in this country is facile, disingenuous and ridiculous," he argued.

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