13 prisoners on death row as state weighs death penalty costs

by Vasinatta Yama – EM TV, Port Moresby

Correctional Services Commissioner Michael Waipo has revealed that there are currently 13 prisoners on death row.

Although it is legal, the death penalty cannot be implemented yet as there are issues on its usage that are yet to be resolved. This was revealed during an open forum on the death penalty, hosted by the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC).

Mr Waipo said that some of the issues are that no facility has been built for the different execution methods. There are also no trained staff to implement the execution, and there is a need for a “super security to guide the housing chamber”.

All eyes were on Lutheran Church representative Dr Zirajukic Kemung, who flew in from Lae specifically for this event. He said that the church is with the government.

“Death is a biblical language and not a new term to be surprised of,” he said. Dr Kemung quoted a bible text from Romans 6:23, which indicates that the wages of sin is death. “The Church has no business to stop the government from executing prisoners.  Our job is to minister the word of God.”

He said the criminal who was on the cross to the right of Jesus confessed that he was a sinner and so, Jesus forgave his sins. The same action may apply to the prisoners in PNG hours or minutes before their death penalty; as long as their sins are forgiven.

From a lay person’s point of view, Chairman of TIPNG, Lawrence Stephens argued against the death penalty, describing it as ‘barbaric’.

“This kind of barbaric ethnicities of law will deprive the people’s right to live,” he said. He said in year 2012, 121 countries abolished the death penalty because it actually increased murder and the danger of victims. Mr Waipo also highlighted the death penalty as a very expensive job.

He said there has been a proposal designed for the completion of an execution chamber, but costs amount up to K700 million.

In May 2013, parliament amended the Criminal Code to include seven offences that will carry the death penalty. The government will discuss and choose which method of execution should be used; whether to use hanging, lethal Injection, firing squad, gas chamber, or electrocution.

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