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Senate approves motion on mercy for Nora Parham

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Posted: Friday, May 20, 2022. 5:10 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: As those in the House did last week, the members of the Senate unanimously approved the Governor-General to exercise the prerogative of mercy on Nora Parham, executed by hanging for murder in 1963.

While Parham’s surviving sons were present to see the beginning of justice for their mother a week ago, it was a cousin, Senator Beverly Williams, who spoke on the record in the Upper Chamber, recalling her mother’s lament that it was “a pity” what happened to Nora, “a beautiful person, one of the prettiest women that I’ve ever known.”

“Like her children, I do not believe that Nora was guilty; I do not believe she lit that match. Like [Agripina] “Pinita” Espejo, I believe that her statement was changed; she never locked that latrine,” said Williams, adding that police failed to believe Nora’s stories of domestic violence by her eventual victim Ketchell Trapp, which, she pointed out, he admitted to on his deathbed.

If June 5, 1963, was “a day of infamy,” then May 13, 2022, was a day of redemption, a day to cry for victory, said Williams, though there are still what-ifs, such as the rejection of the petition for clemency signed by more than two thousand Belizeans but ignored by the ruling People’s United Party government at the time which advised the colonial hierarchy. She also mentioned the names of recent domestic violence victims, dead and alive, whom we hold up as their cases continue.

So small is Belize that Senator Elena Smith is also related to Parham through two female cousins who are Parham’s granddaughters. While exoneration may have been preferred, the law at this time only allows for a pardon – one of the many ways the system failed her then and fails victims now. But she noted that her surviving sons made good of themselves and became good examples to their children and grandchildren.

Lead Opposition Senator Michael Peyrefitte acknowledged that both major parties failed even after Independence to fully redress the matter of Nora Parham, even as the current Government deserves commendation, both parties need to apologize for their failures.

Wrapping up the debate, Leader of Government Business Senator Eamon Courtenay stated that there is more than a personal commendation to the motion but an acknowledgment of the “unacceptable level” of gender-based violence, but also a recommitment to doing the work necessary to address the issue, even in what he called “a conservative society.”

He also noted the call for a review of the legal system with respect to sentencing, pardons, and even the death penalty which remains on the books despite not being used since 1985. Assuming the Governor-General is persuaded to pardon Nora on the advice of the Belize Advisory Council, he said, a date should be set aside for mourning Nora and reflecting on the issue of gender-based violence.

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