(Trinidad Express ) St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves yesterday criticised members of the judiciary who grant bail to murder accused, asking whether they lived on Mars.
Contributing to the Prime Ministers’ roundtable discussion at yesterday’s Regional Symposium: Violence as a Public Health Issue – The Caricom Challenge at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Port of Spain, Gonsalves also said the Pope and the Roman Catholic church were wrong for opposing the death penalty. He said people in the “taverns” all over the region wanted the death penalty to be carried out.
On the issue of the death penalty, Gonsalves said: “I am a Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic church says we shouldn’t have the death penalty. My mother was a Legion of Mary and she taught me that you shouldn’t have the death penalty. I happen to think that both my mother and the Pope are wrong. For murder, other than a crime of passion, you should get the death penalty. And if the Europeans don’t like that… they had it for a long time..and they may not want to bring it back…If we (could) have that (the death penalty) as a particular option for punishment and for the courts not to make it virtually impossible to carry out the death penalty,” he said. He said what he was saying was what people in the taverns in Trinidad and Tobago and in Barbados and in all Caricom countries in the region were saying.
On the issue of the judiciary, Gonsalves said: “Too many of our judges and magistrates are too soft. Sometimes you get the impression that some magistrates, depending on who is the lawyer, their clients seem to get better treatment.
Everybody talking about this, yuh know, but they talking about it behind closed doors. You don’t hear it from a Prime Minister. Well, let us begin to talk about these things too because all of these matters touch on how we are going to address this question.”
He said Caricom countries had put a lot of resources into the police, into crime-fighting, into the judiciary, into prosecutions. He said the region’s laws needed to be updated in defence of public order and safety. “I am not calling for any totalitarian measure but in aspects of our judiciary there is a creeping lack of awareness as to some of the problems we face.
How could you go and give somebody who is charged with murder, bail? Let’s be serious! …Where do those judges live? On Mars?” he said.
Gonsalves was also critical of Opposition politicians.
He said around the region Opposition parties were saying “I want to work with you in dealing with crime” but “don’t believe that at all. The Opposition parties are interested in the following things — to oppose, to expose, and to depose constitutionally. They don’t have anything to propose….They can fool other people, they not fooling me. I am too long in this game to be fooled with these kinds of considerations….The last thing you need to want to help you with this (challenge) is an Opposition politician who wants to get involved with you to try to undermine you in doing your work to make the place safer”.
He said he had no doubt that some of the offenders had mental health challenges, but “in these dysfunctional and broken families, the father is not around, the mother is hustling, trying to make a living and when the boy is 14 and she can no longer control him, she said it’s Rowley problem and is Ralph’s problem. It is not our problem only, it is all of our problem”.
As he talked about the role of the churches, Gonsalves said, “If (only) they stop trying to frighten us to go to heaven, because of hell. Anytime I go to church they want me to go to heaven by frightening me not to go to hell. They have to begin to preach better in order to get my attention and if they can’t get my attention, how are they going to get young people’s attention?” he asked.
He said the bulk of young males are making citizens proud. He said, however, the media focused on those who were offenders, giving them front page attention, while stories on those youths who were “going to churches, involving themselves in the community and taking advantage of opportunities” were put “on Page 40, continued on Page 48”.
He said youths turn to violence and gun-related crime in order to maintain “rank” in the community. “They associate with women, in some cases beautiful women who are high maintenance, and they have to rob and steal and kill and deal with drugs in order to maintain them. Everybody here knows what I am talking about is the absolute truth,” he said, adding that the symposium had to be honest.
Stating that nobody killed someone because they were frustrated, Gonsalves said the young males who commit violent crimes were cowardly, greedy and had an insatiable and permanent condition, known as dissatisfaction. “They are absorbed with me, me, me. It is an individualism which has grown in our society as a whole and the material base for it is ‘dog-eat-dog’ capitalism,” he said.
Gonsalves said governments had to learn to communicate effectively with the youth, particularly the young males and governments had to use the cultural artistes, the entertainers, the sports personalities and others who are sensible and mature and can help us with this challenge