We in LALIT stand for the outlawing of the death penalty forever. And we stand for this proudly. We thus call for a Constitutional Amendment for abolition.
The death penalty is the ultimate violence of the State against an individual. All violence by the State against individuals needs to be curbed, be it police violence or violence by teachers, because it is institutionalized violence meted out by a bureaucracy. The death penalty is the ultimate in bureaucratic violence.
Further it implicates the State in constructing a "killing Department". This means that our money as VAT-payers is used in order to employ "killers" and their assistants in the civil service. Our assent is assumed for the procurement of "killing equipment". We do not agree with this.
The social problems that no doubt drive Navin Ramgoolam to envision this draconian measure will not be "solved" by the death penalty, either; on the contrary the death penalty will still further brutalize the society it aims to rid of brutality. It will, in fact, have a "lefe kontrer".
The economic crisis that we are living through has, as one of its sequels, produced increasingly violent family disputes and neighbourhood conflicts, leading to a high incidence of murders. The solution to these and to hold-ups and burglaries, is not to re-introduce old forms of State violence like the death penalty, but to massively create jobs, for example in food production, and in sun, wind and sea energy production, jobs that not only give people a secure means of survival for themselves and their families, but that also help create hope for a secure future for us all in a better society. Another problem only recently being approached in a more rational way is that of drug addiction. Instead of the resort to violent forms of punishment against people who have become ill after using addictive drugs, it is more sensible to introduce methadone treatment, already available (and in future subutex treatment). Treatment not only decreases suffering, but also decreases the theft that accompanies addiction to expensive black market drugs, and even restricts the market for illegal drugs, thus squeezing the mafia out.
To clinch the argument against the death penalty, it is worth mentioning that many people executed in the past were incorrectly found guilty, or unjustly found guilty, or found guilty under laws that were unjust. And this makes this form of punishment, since it is irreversible, profoundly unacceptable.
We would also like to say that we understand the emotional reaction of people who have recently lost a loved one, when they cry out in their pain calling for the execution of someone who has committed a heinous crime. Anyone of us can say things, and be forgiven for it, in the moment of terrible loss. But this calling out in pain is not the same thing as opinion-makers supporting someone in power who calls for the re-introduction of a planned policy of killing people in cold blood. Sometimes there is also a kind of hysteria in the public, too, when people who are usually quite rational and humane, cry out for blood. It is not the role of a political leader to turn this hysteria into his program. Nor the role of the media to turn people's pain into a dangerous program.
Last time the death penalty was extended, it was to drug dealers. Aneerood Jugnauth brought in the law. Look what happened. The first person up for trial at the time was a young, rural woman worker, very poor and not able to read and write. She was a hotel worker. Her boss sent her to Mauritius with a suitcase. She was due for death row. Then the death penalty was suspended. Rightly so. Now, it needs to be abolished.
This is why LALIT calls for the outlawing of the death penalty. So that future Prime Ministers who cannot think of any way out of real social problems other than killing people, cannot propose this dangerous measure any longer. Instead politicians will be forced to seek the root causes of the social problems and address these. This is LALIT's aim: to change the society that causes violent crimes. And in the meantime, to have a criminal justice system that causes as little harm to society as possible, while the penal system does all it can to rehabilitate people who have been found guilty of violent crime.
For LALIT (First published in Le Mauricien, 4 March, 2010.)