Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vote Left Hanging

Vote left hanging - MPs now to decide on death penalty Tuesday
BALFORD HENRY, Observer writer
Thursday, November 20, 2008

THE House of Representatives last night pulled back from the brink of a crucial vote on the death penalty, at the suggestion of Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
Golding, who introduced the motion last week, asked that the vote be delayed until next Tuesday to facilitate more MPs being present. There were 45 members of the 60-seat House present at the time.

The decision was a disappointment for the so-called "hawks", who support retention of the death penalty and who are obviously the majority. But it was welcomed by the opposing "doves", who probably hope to sway some of the "hawks" by Tuesday.The MPs streamed out of the House after accepting Golding's proposal, mostly confident that there would be no further delay beyond the deadline set last night by the prime minister.Minister of Labour and Social Security Pearnel Charles, one of the fiercest supporters of the death penalty, said last night that although he would not be in the island for Tuesday's vote, he was confident that his view would prevail.

Government's chief whip, Andrew Gallimore, who is passionately against the death penalty, said he had resigned himself to be on the losing end of the vote, but hoped that by Tuesday others could be swayed to his view.

The decision to delay the vote came at the end of a marathon debate lasting four days with contributions from over 40 MPs.Yesterday's portion was highlighted by Charles' demand for immediate action against "murderers" including those who he said recently beheaded an uncle of his, and Gallimore, who severely criticised those supporting capital punishment.

At one stage, Opposition MP Phillip Paulwell (East Kingston and Port Royal) criticised Charles for lashing out at those against the death penalty. Another Opposition MP, Dr Peter Phillips, also accused him of imputing motive for criticising MPs who were against the death penalty and had violence-prone communities in their constituencies.

Opposition MP Robert Pickersgill, whose follow-up motion to have the UK Privy Council's five-year stricture on carrying out the death penalty removed, and has already attracted criticisms from human rights activists, proclaimed "I am for the capital punishment".

Among those absent yesterday were: Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson Miller, who had indicated Tuesday that she would not be present; cabinet ministers Mike Henry, Clive Mullings and Olivia Grange, who are abroad; Opposition MP Ronald Thwaites, who left after prayers; and Leader of the House, Derrick Smith, who had surgery over the weekend in Florida.

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