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Lukaut nau! The death penalty is coming at us like a thief

FR GIORGIO LICINI | Catholic Reporter PNG

The nooseTHE FRONT PAGE OF The National on 27 January reminded the public of the fact that the death penalty is coming and is not far away.

Thirteen men sentenced for unspeakable crimes of piracy, attempted piracy and wilful murder years or decades ago can start counting their days. They are unlikely to see another Christmas or New Year celebration.

Their mothers, wives and children better forget about them. High ranking Papua New Guinea government officials travelled abroad during 2013 trying to understand if it would be easier to get rid of them by lethal injection, hanging, or firing squad.

The countries visited - reportedly United States, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia – are not on top of the list of human rights watchdogs, but at least others such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia were avoided.

One day the nation will wake up to the news the first head (since 1954) has rolled, probably somewhere in Bomana. We refuse to believe that all 13 inmates will be executed at the same time, prompting PNG to grab for the first time in history the headlines of all international media.

It is the expectation of the government, and probably the great majority of citizens, that after this bloody and gruesome exercise, crime will drastically drop all over PNG. This never happened anywhere in the world, but we normally say that Papua New Guinea is ‘different’.

It is also admitted in informal debates that executioners will have to be hired (hopefully at a reasonable price) from outside the country to avoid ensuing retaliation and possible tribal fights among PNG citizens.

It’s like hiring foreign mercenaries to kill people in Bougainville. A lesson apparently not learned.

Will relatives and wantoks of the criminals not hold the highest officials of the Department of Justice responsible for the execution of their guilty relatives? Is it going to be Sepiks against Simbus once again?

The death penalty is coming like a thief. But it may not be able to get away scot free.


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Trevor Freestone

West Papuans would be challenging the thoughts of Christian's idea of "if someone slaps you on the cheek, then turn to them the other cheek also."

If a criminal tortures and rapes your daughter as is happening in West Papua, do you really expect the father to turn over his other daughter to the criminal so she can receive the same treatment?

Sorry, some crimes cannot be forgiven

Chris Overland

The main problem with the death penalty is that it is pretty hard to correct a mistake once the sentence has been carried out. The depressingly large number of such cases in the US is clear testimony to this fact. Also, it is hard to avoid the fact that a deliberate execution is a deeply confronting action to take.

That said, I remain convinced that there are some cases (albeit rare) where the offence is so heinous and the accused so utterly beyond redemption, that death is indeed the appropriate penalty. For this reason, I think that the death penalty should continue to exist as society's ultimate sanction. However, I acknowledge that you would need to follow a very exhaustive judicial process before actually carrying out an execution and that, most of the time, commuting the sentence to life without parole would be the eventual outcome.

We can only hope that PNG will not make a hash of the implementation of this terrible penalty. Somehow, I suspect that this will be what happens.

Giorgio Licini

Peter. That I wouldn't know, but I suppose most of them are on the line of George Bush Jr. etc. From my very personal point of view they are not Christians yet...

Justin Friend | Facebook

It was my understanding that the death penalty has "always" been on the books in PNG, it just wasn't actually used?

That's correct, Justin - KJ

Peter Kranz

And, Father Giorgio, undoubtedly all those pushing for the death penalty profess to be Christians.

I wonder how they can reconcile capital punishment with these words of Christ?...

Matthew 5:38-48 (NIV) -

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

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