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Al Miller | Sovereignty, death penalty and justice

Published:Sunday | May 29, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Much debate has arisen, sparked by the suggestion of the minister of national security to revisit the enforcement of the death penalty as part of the strategy to combat the ever-worsening murder rate. The minister's intentions are right and wise, but the implementation in a confused world with weak and inept leadership creates much complication. There is also a great deal of ignorance on the spiritual and moral meaning and value of the death penalty. I share the perspective of God's Word and some observations.

For those who argue for the death penalty, it is clear in God's Word that it is not primarily about deterrence! For those who argue against the death penalty, the Bible is not concerned in this instance about the prospect of rehabilitation or reform of the offender.

In the Bible, the death penalty is recommended in recognition of the high value of life and the principle of justice to honour the sanctity of life. Life's value and justice are the central issues that must be made clear to all.

Human life is a reflection of divine life. Respect and honour for life is respect and honour to God. To seek to destroy life is to desire to challenge God. Hence God says, "If anyone takes a human life, that person's life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image" (Genesis 9:6). This principle should be taught and reinforced to all mankind. The act of the death penalty is part of the reinforcement process.

Justice must be done and just requirements met. Nothing can compensate for life but life. For example, 10 years or 15 years or more imprisonment cannot equate to the brutal, vicious murder of a person. When this is done, it suggests that a life filled with purpose and potential is of no more value than a prison term. This is the wrong message being sent to a society.

The just requirement and penalty for man's sin was death. Hence Jesus had to die bearing the just penalty to honour the principle of justice. You cannot have love without justice. Justice must deal with the rights of all, not one side. One-sided action is not justice. The aspect of being a deterrent and the reform of the offender are secondary; the value of life is foremost.

However, when its application is sure and swift, there is no question that it will be a deterrent. Historical data are there to prove that. Any person to whom it would not be a deterrent does not deserve to live because they would have indicated that they have no regard for life.

The argument that the death penalty is not a deterrent is a ridiculous notion that defies all logic, objective reason, common sense and reality. There is a direct correlation between the cessation of the death penalty and the reduction in moral value teaching for the reverence of life, over the last 30 years, and the consistent rise in murder.

The Pratt and Morgan case ruling in 1993 and the attitude of resistance by successive governments since the late 1970s and '80s to push the execution of capital punishment has long since sent a clear message. This message has been unmistakably heard, understood and often declared by elements prone to violence and murder that 'there is nothing to fear in killing, as the worst that could happen is life imprisonment with the option of parole'. This is worsened by the fact that the likelihood of being caught is remote and, therefore, making a 'duppy' a nuh nutten, as there are few consequences to action.

 

ILL-CONCEIVED CONCEPT

 

All of this is the result of an ill-conceived concept of life, being promoted by many human-rights groups. These adverse notions influence court rulings in countries with failed moral and social systems and structures. These countries, with their proven failed moral and social systems, are foisting their failure on developing nations such as ours. Sadly, many of our leaders lack the conviction of principles and courage to stand up and say no to what is injurious to best national development.

We cannot continue to spinelessly sign on to any and every international convention or treaty simply for economic gain or for fear of economic loss. A society is more than mere economics. There are principles and values that must be non-negotiable. A society built on strong values and principles will survive the odds in the long term and gain economic prosperity. Where is our sovereignty as a nation in these international forums? We do not have to agree with everyone for fear of standing alone on principles.

What I have been hearing from Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn and many other legal minds who have weighed in on the death penalty debate is that we have surrendered our sovereignty and the will of the people to the Privy Council and other nations.

 

UNABLE TO STAND FOR VALUES

 

The Privy Council is to be the facilitator of a process, not lords over our national destiny. Is this what our political leaders have done to us? We no longer have a say in determining our national destiny? Are we back to bowing to 'Bucky Maasa'? What was the struggle of our founding fathers for Independence for?

We seem unable to stand for principles and values, even while selling off our land and best assets to foreign interests. Our children will soon own nothing and become bystanders in their own land. None of the exponents of these concepts or signatories to these conventions ask about the will of the people.

We must remind our Government and politicians that they represent the people, not themselves. They ought not to sign any agreement we did not authorise. As a sovereign nation, the Privy Council, pressure groups or foreign nations ought not to dictate policy and beliefs that we consider not in our best national interest. We need leaders with conviction, boldness, courage; and a commitment to values, justice and truth to defend our sovereignty and best national development priorities.

- The Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.