President David Granger said he was open to holding a referendum on whether the death penalty should be abolished if there is a deadlock, hinting very strongly that he was opposed to external forces dictating what Guyana should do.
“There has been a moratorium of over two decades and what I would say is that if the Cabinet were to consider it, if the National Assembly were to consider it and even if there was a deadlock, we can go to a Referendum. Let the people say what they want to occur in this jurisdiction; in the state of Guyana,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Ministry of the Presidency.
The President made it clear that his approach symbolized transparency and openness. “That is consultation. What do the people want? So that is my approach,” the President said.
Granger made it clear that he is advised by Cabinet, his coalition partners, the National Assembly and Guyanese, even as he reiterated that he had no intention of sending any death row prisoner to the gallows for execution.
“Guyana is an independent sovereign state and it is not for me to get ahead of what the people want. I do not envisage any circumstance under which I would be willing to assent to the death penalty even though it remains on the books,” he said. Earlier Thursday, Minister Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman said government was in no hurry to hold public consultations on whether the death penalty should be expunged from Guyana’s law books.
Guyana last executed a death row prisoner almost 20 years ago, a situation that human rights activists call a de facto moratorium. Since then, following international pressure, the law was amended to provide for convicted murderers to be sentenced to death only if they would have killed a member of the security services, judges or magistrates in the line of duty.
The leader of a delegation from the United Nations, which met with President David Granger at the Ministry of the Presidency today, Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations Headquarters, expressed satisfaction with the President’s stance on the death penalty in Guyana. Mr. Simonovic said that the President’s strong statements against assenting to capital punishment and seeking public consultation in the matter must be respected and appreciated.
Mr. Simonovic said that he is especially appreciative of the President’s insistence on taking a decision only after the citizens of the country have been consulted and their views made known.
“[The] President’s statement that we have heard recently that during his tenure there will not be any execution is very encouraging. I would think that also it is very encouraging that the government is thinking in terms of establishing a committee that will be reflecting on the issue of death penalty. It is extremely good because experience in other countries have proven that the more you raise information, the more discussion about the death penalty, there is a strengthening of the trend of moving away from it so we welcome this development very much. We also think that this discussion is a good opportunity to make a formal decision,” he said.
Mr. Simonovic was accompanied to the meeting by Ms. Khadija Musa, Resident Representative of the United Nations; Baron Marc Bossuyt, President Emeritus of the Constitutional Court and Member of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Ms. Navi Pillay, Former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Former Judge of the International Court of Justice; Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Mr. Rajiv Narayan, Senior Policy Adviser, Secretariat of the International Commission against the Death Penalty and Mr. Derek Lambe, Head of Political Press and Information Section, Delegation of the European Union in Guyana.