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A Matter of Life or Death
Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2005

Posted by Michael De Gale

It seems that the Government and overwhelming public opinion favours the resumption of hanging in T&T. Let me see – first world status by 2020 and the reintroduction of hanging ASAP. Did I miss something? Common sense, history and personal observation tells me that you could hang them as high as you want, that will have no effect on crime, as hanging is not a panacea for social ills. However, if the decision to resume hanging becomes official, why stop there? As a further deterrent, why not lop their heads off and impale them on stakes in the areas that is most notorious for criminal activities? That should scare the hell out of them. I heard that when the Europeans encountered the Aztecs and saw rows and rows of skulls it was indeed an ominous experience. Within a limited period, the murderous Europeans slaughtered the Aztecs wholesale. Is there a lesson here? Go figure.

It is common knowledge that poverty breed criminals and necessity knows no law. The solution lies therefore, not in political expediency to pacify a mortified public but rather in addressing the ills that plague the nation. Contemporary social problems give rise to poverty and consequently engender criminal behaviour at the grass roots level. Greed and power on the other hand, provides the impetus for "white collar crimes." Unfortunately, one informs the other -for if gold will rust, what will iron do?

Yuh tink it easy to watch yuh hungry children cry because they doh have food as fundamental as milk. Yuh tink it easy to face the grocery with a few blues in yuh pocket and walk out with one brown paper bag an yuh ent buy nutten yet? Eh? Yuh ever pass thru John John, Laventille, Morvant, Belmont and similarly depressed areas and see the hopelessness on the faces of the youth, and surrender in the eyes of the elderly. When God could provide no immediate relief from hunger, yuh ever see young women go into business with the business they were born with, only to get hooked on drugs and exacerbate an already pathetic situation. Yuh ever see young men cut down in the prime because dey felt that hustling is the road to happiness. When yuh see dat, yuh go understan the genesis of crime. Imagine yuh witnessing every day in the media, "big people" in high places involved in bobol and you doh even have enough to feed yuh hungry children. Ah guess de philosophy according to the old calypso is, "if the priest could play who is we?"

Let me state unequivocally that I do not condone criminal activities at any level, but in a country blessed with oil, natural gas and a plethora of other resources, it is criminal for citizens not to be guaranteed the basic necessities of life. The right to food, shelter, clothing, health care and education should be enshrined in the country’s constitution. There are no excuses for anything less. Address the problems in society and I can guarantee a reduction in criminal activity at the grass root level. These problems include increasing poverty despite an abundance of oil and gas; corruption at every level; the lack of programs to inspire youth to envision a future filled with hope and promise; poor quality education; inadequate housing, inefficient and unaccountable Government departments; the increasing disparity between rich and poor; the proliferation of drugs in the society; the "get rich or die trying" mentality and ineffective leadership from top to bottom just to mention a few. These problems are not without attending consequences. Hence, the manifestation of criminal activities.

I believe that crime must not go unpunished. State sanctioned hanging however, is definitely not an enlightened neither is it a progressive approach to solving crime. It is barbaric and backward and should have no place in Vision 2020. Life imprisonment with hard labour is a much greater deterrent to crime than the death penalty. I do not imagine for a moment that prison life is pleasurable. The death penalty provides an easy way out for criminals - a welcome relief from the tedium and stress of prison life. . Popping necks may be politically expedient but it is morally reprehensible and does not reflect an enlightened society on its way to attaining first world status. Did the hanging of Dole Chadee and eight of his goons in one weekend put a stop to criminal behaviour? The answer is a resounding NO. That being said, if I should ever face the possibility of life imprisonment, I will echo the words of Patrick Henry March 23, 1775 "...Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" Rather than face a lifetime behind bars living like some ferocious beast, I will welcome death with open arms and taste the juice of freedom.

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