January 9

Death penalty & republic – Jamaican PM’s agenda


Jamaica's new prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, has said that it is time to reintroduce the death penalty and become some as yet unspecified form of republic.  The only information l Jamaicans have been given about the proposed republic is that it will come with the gallows.

Speaking at her inaugural address on Friday, Portia Simpson Miller, said her government would "initiate the process of detachment from the monarchy", establishing a republic with a president as head of state, and breaking off links with the former colonial power.


This report by Al Jazeera's Andrew Potter was broadcast on 7 January, 2012.

"I love the Queen. She's a beautiful lady," Ms.Simpson Miller enthused to 10,000 guests on Thursday at the residence of Jamaica's governor-general, the Queen's representative on the island.

Switching to patois, she added: "But I think time come."

…hangings to come back…

Capital punishment is another bone of contention for Jamaica, reports Luke Harding in The Guardian 6 January,2012 . The island has one of the world's highest murder rates, with violent crime a daily occurrence. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council — the final court of appeal under the current constitution — has repeatedly blocked attempts to enforce the death penalty, a move seen as colonial-style foreign meddling.

This week Ms. Simpson Miller also promised to introduce reforms to make a Caribbean court of justice the final appeal court in all criminal matters. The move would repatriate Jamaica's sovereignty fully, she said.

On 29 December the 66-year-old led her centre-left People's National Party (PNP) to a landslide win over the centre-right Jamaica Labour Party, winning 42 of 63 seats.

…an assessment…

It is not a foregone conclusion that she will succeed.

Laurence Allen, a Jamaican analyst with IHS Global Insight, said: "There is no clear view which way the Jamaican population would vote. It [a referendum] would be a bit of a gamble.

"There is broad sympathy for Jamaica being in full control of its constitutional arrangements and government. But balanced against this is wide and popular respect for the current Queen."

He says that Jamaica also has more urgent problems to deal with: high unemployment, a massive debt to GDP ratio of 130%, and a substantial dependence on tourism from the crisis-hit US.. The island is also a victim of geography, stuck midway between drug-producing countries in the Andes and drug consumers in North America.

"There are so many challenges. It [reform] could well slip down the priority list fairly quickly," Mr. Allen predicted, adding that a referendum was unlikely before 2014/15, somewhere towards the end of the government's five-year term.

In her acceptance speech Ms.Simpson Miller said her government would "ease the burdens and pressures" of sinking living standards and rising poverty, and would pursue a tight fiscal policy while co-operating with the IMF and striving to "balance the books and people's lives". Urging reconciliation she said: "We will seek to make this country one of brothers and sisters, not of rivals and victims."

Her party's overwhelming parliamentary majority is part of a pan-Caribbean trend against incumbent governments, reports Luke Harding. Over the past two years ruling parties have been thrown out of office in Trinidad, St Lucia and Haiti, and forced to share power in Guyana.


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