HOW much does a human life cost? And how much should be spent to save one? Or to pay for one?
Two items in the news last week caused me to repeatedly ask myself all three questions.
The first followed the award of $14,000 to the mother of a fatal victim of a police shooting.
Veteran Human Rights advocate Mary Francis complained publicly that the formula for arriving at compensation in such cases badly needs revisiting.
She pointed out that the fact that the able-bodied and skilled young man was unemployed at the time of his death meant that compensation was low in cash value, as it’s based on application of the deceased’s rate of earnings over time, from age at death to eventual age of retirement.
Of course, the guardians of the law will argue that ‘That’s the law’ and “That’s just the way it is…’
But I will argue that something has to be drastically wrong when a mother can be given EC $14,000 – the equivalent of US$5,166 – after her son was killed by a police officer.
This case is particularly interesting when looked at against the background of a report in the US press last week that the Minneapolis Justice Department has agreed to a settlement of US$20 Million – (EC $54.2 Million) compensation to the family of an Australian woman shot by a cop.
I don’t know about the one here, but the Black officer in the Minneapolis case was arrested on a homicide-related charge.
However, my point is in relation to the comparative value of the life of an Australian killed by a police bullet in the USA, vis-à-vis a Saint Lucian national suffering the same mortal fate at home.
Here again, the legal brains will argue it’s an unfair comparison and offer reams of arguments to back their position.
But I would ask: If the mechanisms for arriving at compensation differ, as they do, why hasn’t anyone yet sought to even use this case as a legal precedent to initiate proceedings towards reviewing what may very well be cast in stone law, but which seriously devalues the life of a human being in Saint Lucia.
Think about it, folks: $54 Million vs $14,000.
That may very well be legal, but how can it be fair? Or just?
FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE?My second question arose from the announcement by the National Security Minister, with support from a predecessor, that he’ll launch a campaign to financially compensate informers who rat on persons with illegal firearms.
My question arose because I remember, like most who wish to will, that a previous government had what looked like an effective way of bringing-in illegal firearms, through compensation of the individuals themselves who voluntarily submit them, no questions asked.
Ever-so-often, the then National Security Minister would publicly expose the vast number of illegal weapons surrendered — and to everyone, it seemed the money being paid was worth each dollar, even if each bullet and each gun meant only one life.
But that effective programme unfortunately attracted partisan political criticism ahead of general elections and eventually became the victim of regime change, only to be followed by a proliferation in the number of illegal firearms on the local market over many years, a situation that’s more than doubled today, to the extent that it’s now a national security concern.
My question today is: Is it better to compensate the real owners and holders of illegal firearms for voluntarily surrendering them, or to provide compensation to persons who will become informers, creating a basis for vengeful and potentially deadly aftermaths?
One of the loud arguments against the previous campaign was that although it worked, the same firearms somehow found their way back on the streets and were re-submitted for more cash.
If that was so, it would seem that what was necessary was to examine how the submitted firearms got back out on the streets and lose that loophole, instead of just abandoning the programme altogether – a situation the present minister, as a former deputy Police Commissioner, can surely better handle than all others.
I would therefore humbly but strongly submit and advocate that the government revisit the earlier programme that worked and ensure it works even better, rather than invest in the establishment of a new breed of police informers, whose lives could very well be in mortal danger – again, for a few dollars more.
I rest my case!