Who am I?Where am I?

12 February 2009

Monster's Ball

On Friday, 19 December 2008, a bell tolled from inside the grounds of Her Majesty's Prison in St. Kitts. The macabre sound marked the death of Charles Laplace. The bell marked the beginning of one man's boycott of St. Kitts....mine.

Before I begin, I want to say that I am hypocritical. I am American. We do have capital punishment in the United States. Capital punishment is legal in 38 states plus the District of Columbia. I am probably not going to boycott these individual states and as an American, I can't easily boycott my country. I am admitting however, that there are flaws to this blog.

Who was Charles Laplace? He was a convicted murderer convicted of killing his wife in a fit of rage. He was a citizen of the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean. So why am I writing about him and not one of many other people executed in the world? Why am I picking on a relatively poor, small nation in the Caribbean. I did go to China, which carries out more executions than the rest of the world right?

The answer is two-fold. I am a vehement opponent of capital punishment, espeically in the United States. I find the entire process macabre, and essentially feel as though the government believes that it is protecting my rights by executing someone. I have two problems with this particular execution. First, the manner in which this execution was carried out was horrific. According to the Daily Mail, Laplace was taken from his cell around midnight. He was thrown into a cell next to the gallows where he remained on a mattress, bound both hand and foot for eight hours. He had no food nor water during this time. Nor was he allowed to make final calls, visit with a minister, or any of the other things that condemned men in the United States are offered. Furtermore, he had to endure the sound of guards having their version of a monster's ball while playing cards, laughing, joking, and drinking mere meters from where he was interred.

The executioner was paid well for carrying out this execution. Simeon Govia, He is reportedly a reprobate beach gigolo who tries to sleep with female tourists. the gigolo turned hangman, was also given a significant amount of alcohol to ease his qualms about carrying out his duties. All of this, while Charles Laplace was immobilized on a dirty mattress meters away. This is human rights St. Kitts?

The term monster's ball stems from the Lucullan party that was thrown for condemned men the night before their execution. This practice originated in England. Thus it may come as little surprise that England's first colonial outpost in the western world apparently continues slavishly upholding many of the traditions of its colonial master. Some of these are undoubtedly good. Cricket for example (I bet you thought I would never work cricket into this post.) However, the abominable disregard for human rights demonstrated by the Kittitian authorites deserves strong censure.

Denzil Douglas, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, has stated that something must be done about the crime rate on the islands. Apparently, this was his government's solution. What Mr. Douglas fails to realize is that this knee-jerk reaction will not change the fact that the island is now the murder capital of the world. This will have an impact on tourism. However, sadly for Mr. Douglas, historical analyses of the effects of capital punishment seem to indicate that it has no bearing on acting as a deterrent and reducing crime. The social issues that belie criminal activities are still present. Therefore, the malfeasance will continue as long as government continues to employ a synecdoche approach to addressing the crime problem while not addressing the root of the issue.

The second thing that really bothers me about this is the reasoning behind the government's decision to speedily execute Laplace. The government is concerned about the image of the island. This is understandable. Furthermore, Kittitians are tired of the crime spree plauging their pristine island. They are urging the government to act. I am not going to sit here and say that it is my right to tell the people of St. Kitts how to govern their land. However, if the government is indeed worried about it's tourism industry being decimated the way Antigua's industry was nearly ruined by the murder of a British couple on their honeymoon, then it needs to address the problem on a more grassroots level.

I have lived in the most violent, crime-ridden, society (statistically speaking) in the world (South Africa). Societies that have huge crime problems have these problems largely because of social issues, which are often difficult to cure. South Africa has toyed with the idea of re-instating the death penalty. Thus far, it has not happened though there are calls from sections of the ANC, the ruling party, for it's reinstatement. What South African leaders, to their credit, have realized (and Denzil Douglas presumably has not) is that the death penalty cures none of the societal ills that cause crime to be commited in the first place.
It galls me to think that this execution was carried out because St. Kitts is trying to deter crime specifically to attract more tourists. Shouldn't the deterrence of crime be because the government is trying to protect it's citizens? Using this logic, Laplace was hanged because the Douglas government wants me to visit St. Kitts and Nevis. In other words, he was hanged so that American tourists could see that the island was safe and that the government was tough on crime. I find this unconscionable. It is even more upsetting to know that, according to Amnesty International, Laplace had more legal options open to him, which he was not allowed to carry out. Is this China? Mr. Douglas was frown upon the comparison, but even the Chinese have at least a show-trial and generally, all the legal options condemned inmates have are exhausted before an execution is carried out.

Because of the complete disregard for due process, human rights, and dignity, I have organized a one-man boycott of St. Kitts until the government abolishes the death penalty. Only after doing this will St. Kitts and Nevis receive the guerdon of my hard earned cash.

Nomadic Richard
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ckay said...

yeah...at times the heart does things that reasons can't understand....

Anonymous said...

You know these are the things that make me annoyed and angry but what good will that do if change is needed. I agree with you, Nomad and definitely St Kitts needs to look at the root causes rather than pointing a finger on certain individual to break the crime chaing plauging manay Carribean Islands. I only wish that justice is served to men like the one executed. I guess he was just a helpless poor man who couldn't beat the so called democratic politics of our world today???

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for writing this every interesting and thought provoking blog. To bring Capital punishment back to South Africa has been toyed with many times, but like you said,is this actually the solution? Most probably not, however I do feel that South African Government needs to come down hard on crime.

My other point of argument would also be, since he murdered his wife, in a fit of rage, he took away her human right to live? So is it not therefor justifiable that his rights be taken away as well? Ok, so maybe not in such a derogatary way like they did with him, but I think that punishment fits the crime!!