Monday, October 13, 2014


I have stayed out of the Highway Re-route Movement's (HRM) contra temps with the Government for all kinds of reasons which are irrelevant to the point I wish to make here. In my mind, the question of Dr. Kublalsingh's sincerity in his beliefs is not in issue, or, put another way, ought not to be in issue. We should assume (though not necessarily accept) for the sake of argument that he is being sincere rather than get into an argument about that  ... which would only serve to obfuscate the real issues behind the proposed re-routing of the highway. And no right thinking person can look at somebody starving himself to death and not want to find a way to stop him from dying regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the cause that he has undertaken.

But, in all of the arguments, both pro and con, that I have read there has been one matter that has bothered me no end and which has never been discussed. It is this: forget the re-routing of the highway for a moment. Serious question: should a government (any government) be pressured into doing something that a majority of the population does not want, by an action such as a hunger strike? Does this amount to emotional blackmail?

Consider this: let's say that X sincerely believes that the death penalty is wrong and ought to be abolished. Let's say that the government of the day passes appropriate legislation that effectively allows the death penalty to be carried out again and manages to withdraw from all of the various international treaties that make it so difficult to carry it out now. Let's then say that X brings a case in the High Court to stop the death penalty from being carried out, which he loses twice and now is on its way to the Privy Council, and that the government proposes to hang, say, twelve convicted murderers a la Dole Chadee in one day before the Privy Council can adjudicate on the matter. (And just for the record, I am aware that the Privy Council has stepped into cases like this before, but let's pretend that it won't in this case.) X now goes on a hunger strike and refuses to come off of it unless and until the government of the day postpones the hangings and at the very least agrees to mediation on the whole question of the death penalty.

And finally, let's assume (though not accept) that X is as sincere in his belief as to the rightness of his cause as Dr. Kublalsingh is. So, should the government of the day give in to X and go to mediation? Should it postpone the hangings even though if it does the legal tangles that such a postponement will create would be such that we would be right back to square one with the problem of executing convicted murderers? But if it doesn't postpone the hangings the murderers will be hanged!

Except for the names and a few other changes, the story is the same one. The question is should a government ... any government ... allow itself to be pressured in the manner that Dr. Kublalsingh is doing now? What are the consequences to the country of this government ... any government giving in to this kind of pressure? Should we be concerned with the possible precedent that this will set?

For me, the answer is yes, we ought to be very concerned. As much as I do not want Dr. Kublalsingh to die, I see the issue as being bigger than just his life. And that's really, really sad!! With the greatest of respect for Dr. Kublalsingh I am of the view that he has gone down a wrong route here.

And for the record, I am one of those in the minority who believes that the death penalty ought to be abolished!! I think that it is wrong.  But this post is not about that nor is it about the rightness or otherwise of the HRM's cause. Hopefully, you will understand my point and at the very least think seriously about it. What conclusions you come to is, of course, entirely up to you!!

1 comment:

  1. I don't know why we agonize about this issue. Decisions like this are made on a daily basis even in our private lives. Should I cut down this tree that is too close to my house before it falls on the house during high winds. When we look at the issue are there birds that rely on the tree for nests?? How many nests are currently in the tree?? Never the less we cut down the tree because it poses a potential problem. We never consider anything else. And if we do we look at the overall benefits versus the costs.

    Similarly looking at the highway we should look at the benefits along with the environment and I believe that the benefits far outweigh the environment damage.

    The other issue as to whether a government should bow to black or white mail, my reaction is never or the government becomes nonfunctional.