Ja bishop calls for hangings

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Amid cries for Jamaicans to return to their roots, a popular church leader has called for the state to resume the hanging of convicted murderers.

Speaking Sunday during the Heritage thanksgiving service held at the Waltham Park New Testament Church of God in Kingston, Bishop Ronald Blair said he believed capital punishment had its place.

“There is need for some tough decisions and people will grumble and cry. But we’ll have to make (those) decisions if we’re going to have change in our land,” he said as the packed church erupted in applause and amens.

Blair, the brother of Political Ombudsman Herro Blair, said he knew that many of his colleagues would disagree with his view, but it was an opinion he was willing to stand by.

Last Friday, a pastor, while on the pulpit, was attacked and chopped with a machete by a man. Eyewitnesses said the man attempted to behead the pastor. He was taken to hospital where he got several stitches.

Blair said in addition to capital punishment, pri-soners should be put to work.

“Even if we must put leg irons on them, they must clean our gullies or do some work so that they can feed themselves,” he said.

He said the money that they would have been paid could also be used to bring assistance to the families of their victims.

Blair also called for Jamaicans to return to the traditions of caring, sharing and godliness.

“We have adopted a spirit of selfishness. It’s me, myself and I,” he said. “There was a time when we cared for the young, and cared for the aged and every vulnerable person in our society.”

Though the death penalty is on the books in Jamaica, an execution has not taken place since the late 1980s.

The Pratt & Morgan ruling by the United Kingdom Judicial Committee of the Privy Council mandated that the sentences of inmates on death row for more than five years be commuted to life imprisonment.

That ruling has frustrated hanging efforts.

Although local and inter-national human-rights groups assert that hanging should be scrapped, in alignment with international trends, polls show that most Jamaicans are in favour of the death penalty.