EDITORIAL - Michael Peart's folly
Michael Peart is not just another member of parliament, which, of itself, is an important position. He, in addition, has the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The people who hold that position are expected to be serious and if not erudite, at least make an attempt at thought in their public pronouncements. Not only are we unable to claim this about Mr Peart, but he seems to be as bad as Bertel Moore, the chairman of the Westmoreland Parish Council, who, last September, we were driven to describe as "moronic and imbecilic". Most sensible people thought so, too.
At the time, Mr Moore's solution to rising murders in his parish was to "suggest to the police to shoot first then ask questions later". Confronted with the stupidity of his argument, Mr Moore first lied about the statement, then weaselled about context, or some such ill-formed, half-baked explanation.
Mr Moore's brand of silliness and juvenile response to a social crisis appears to be infectious and caught by Mr Peart, who is also the MP for South Manchester, where, several weeks ago, a woman and two of her children were hacked to death. One man is in police custody for the crime.
The three victims were buried on Sunday and Mr Peart attended the funeral and (mis)spoke.
He harrumphed about the state of crime of Jamaica, provided no real analysis of the cause, and offered no solution - at least none that could be considered serious. He said: "Sometimes, some things happen in our community and we take it too simple, because that man, maybe, shouldn't even have reached the police station."
The "maybe" in the sentence is Mr Peart's - MP and Speaker of the House - slight sliver of doubt, behind which he cannot expect to find cover. For any reasonable interpretation of the House Speaker's remarks is that he has called for the extrajudicial killing of a suspected murderer. He would have given succour to vigilantes, including the police, who feel it is their right to take the law into their own hands.
A MORE ADULT RESPONSE?
In the event that Mr Peart is to claim that we misinterpreted, or took his remarks out of context, we are not the only ones. So, too, did the North East Manchester MP, Audley Shaw, who spoke at the same funeral about the crisis of crime but said that "jungle justice was not the solution". In that regard, Mr Shaw was the more adult of the two.
However, Mr Shaw's solution to the problem of homicides in Jamaica was not any more thoughtful. His proposal is to "bring back hanging".
"If you don't want to hang by the neck, then get lethal injection like the Americans do," he said.
First, there is no legal impediment to capital punishment in Jamaica. But more important, capital punishment can't, of itself, be a deterrent to murder. Indeed, homicide in Jamaica was on an upswing even when convicted murderers were being hanged.
We first have to catch the criminals. Jamaica's police clear-up rate is less than 40 per cent of murders and it takes ages before cases actually reach the courts, where a turbid court system frustrates everyone.
Maybe, on reflection, Michael Peart will appreciate the imbecility of his idea and apologise to the legislature and Jamaica for the wrong signal he sent.
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