Abolition of death penalty not a priority – President

… Govt in “no rush” to hold consultations

Despite repeated calls from the international community, the death penalty will not be abolished anytime soon in Guyana, with top Government officials declaring that this measure is not a priority.David Granger

One day after United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) officials urged that the death penalty be removed from the law books, Government affirmed that there is no rush for this to occur since there has already been a moratorium on capital punishment since 1997.

President David Granger, during a recording of his weekly telecast “The Public Interest” on Thursday, made it clear that all governments have their priorities; however, the abolition of the death penalty is just not a pressing matter to pursue.

Positing that his utmost priorities are the eradication of poverty and alleviation of illiteracy, President Granger argued that the sidelining of this issue does not mean his Government will rush to execute prisoners.

“Right now, persons who are being convicted and sentenced to death will not fear that the penalty will actually be carried out… It is not one of my priorities to order the death penalty, I am not about to order an execution,” he explained.

Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman, during the chairing of the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, iterated that there is no urgency in abolishing the death penalty.

In fact, he explained that it is a complicated situation given that the death penalty needs to be enshrined in the country’s laws in order to be compliant with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regime.

“We are aware that recent laws dealing with countering terrorism include the death penalty brought us in compliance with FATF. We are placed in a position where credible international organisations are calling us to enact certain laws which we complied with so we may not be put on certain lists and made a pariah state where terrorism is concerned,” he stated.

Notwithstanding, Trotman said holding consultations on the matter is not important at this moment.

“Government is not rushed to remove it from the books. Should we do so, we will have widespread consultations with the people of Guyana,” the Minister said.

The conversation surrounding the abolition of the death penalty in Guyana became slightly complex after the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition Administration included capital punishment in its anti-terrorism laws, even though it had signed on to join worldwide efforts to abolish the death penalty.

Ahead of a judicial colloquium on the death penalty on Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel, several UN and EU officials once again emphasised the importance of the death penalty to be repealed and called on Government to make advancements in this regard.

The officials also expressed hope that Cabinet will find it fit to remove capital punishment from the recently passed Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation.

With Government insisting that the death penalty is required to render Guyana FATF compliant, others are contending that this is not the case.

Former Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall had asserted that in other countries deemed FATF compliant, the death penalty is abolished.

He pointed out that in France, where FATF is headquartered, the death penalty has been abolished decades ago; and the country is still FATF compliant.

Nandlall had lamented that the country will only suffer, having the death penalty still enshrined in its laws while standing in solidarity with the worldwide movement to abolish capital punishment, which has been deemed inhumane and completely ineffective in deterring crime.