Devon Dick | Question time for Peter Bunting
There are still lingering questions concerning former National Security Minister Peter Bunting granting certificates of immunity to three soldiers who were involved in the killing of businessman Keith Clarke during a state of emergency declared because of circumstances associated with the arrest of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, who pled guilty to serious crimes. Jamaica's parliamentary democracy does not have the robust, lively and quick response that is associated with Question Time of the Westminster parliamentary system in England. Nevertheless, it is question time for Peter Bunting.
Why did Bunting offer these certificates of immunity so close to the general election of February 2016? Is there not a convention that major decisions are put on hold during the election campaign? In the USA, the president grants pardon usually near the end of his term and sometimes because of close association or some perceived political benefit. But the killings occurred under a JLP administration, so why the rush to grant immunity just before the election?
Were these foot soldiers granted immunity to cover up for persons higher in the 'food chain'? Was the Defence Board and Cabinet aware, and did they approve of this action?
Was the granting of immunity intended to prevent a trial or just to ensure that after the trial there was no prosecution? What compelling evidence did you receive that encouraged you to grant immunity, and do you think you are competent to make such a far-reaching decision? Did the security forces come under attack during this operation in Kirkland Heights?
Too much power?
Do you feel that this provision of issuing certificates of immunity under a state of emergency is too much power in the hands of a Cabinet minister? What redress is there if the certificate of immunity has been abused? Do you feel a certificate of immunity before a trial is in the best interest of the nation?
Do you feel that the prosecution and family members should have been told about the certificates of immunity soon after it was granted? Was this a waste of the court's time not to be told earlier? Was this insensitive for family members to be led to believe that the trial was going ahead only to hear that there is immunity, and they are now not sure what will happen next?
Has there been any public expression of sorry or apology by your government or the JLP government to the family of Keith Clarke? Was financial compensation given to the family for repairs of the house without acceptance of wrongdoing? Was there government sponsored counselling offered to the family members who were traumatised by what they saw and the death of a loved one? Have you ever given thought to the emotions of the widow and children as Father's Day approaches?
Why does this country have certificates of immunity and a pardon that can be granted by the governor general on the advice of the Privy Council? Would these powers not undermine our three-tier judicial system which has two opportunities for appeal after prosecution?
Finally, would you support a repeal of certificate of immunity and granting of pardon?
PS: On Sunday, Brandon Murray, businessman, was killed in daylight with impunity outside Mayfair hotel. This uptown killing took place about 400 metres from the back gate of King's House, and also not far from the Canadian Embassy. A pastor related how Murray attended Bible study faithfully and speculated the reason for his killing. What message is this to family, business people and country? Is there a link between immunity and impunity? That is a question not for Bunting only but for all of us!
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete' and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.