Sep 15, 2021 Letters
I decided to write this just moments after a discussion with someone who has strongly held reasons as to why she would not have a COVID-19 vaccine. I do not agree with those reasons, and all, but one, of those reasons have either been debunked by facts and statistics, or simply make no sense when and well known. The one sensible reason most cited today is the inalienable right to decide what goes into one’s own body.
Most human beings live in societies, which are governed by norms or in most instances worldwide by enacted laws. Indeed, there are a few persons who live in some of the most remote parts of our country whose practical day-to-day lives are governed by their own norms. Persons living in societies, (and the hermit doesn’t), have to consider the rights of others for peaceful co-existence. The Constitution of Guyana is the Supreme Law so for any law to be valid in Guyana, it must not be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution. The same applies in Canada and the USA. The UK has no written Constitution, so it is parliament that guides the Supreme Court as to what the Supreme Law of the Kingdom is.
Vaccine mandates are a reality of today. Such mandates now exist in countries that represent the bastions of democracy whose leaders will certainly not support Guyanese, who protest that their civil liberties are being trampled upon by vaccination mandates. However, what about the Constitution, our Bill of Rights that guarantees every Guyanese the right to life, liberty of the person, enjoyment of private property and freedom of conscience and expression and of travel? Our Constitution guarantees many other rights and freedoms than just those listed here.
In reality, none of the individual rights and freedoms entrenched by our Constitution and in the UK traceable to Magna Carta are absolute. Whilst in the UK an action might be not unlawful if parliament has not enacted any law about it, in Guyana we must look to what the Constitution has to say about such action. In both instances where there is conflict, a clear authority prevails, and in Guyana, that authority is the Constitution.
If individual rights and freedoms were not both inalienable and sensibly restricted at the same time, someone could in the midst of the current pandemic lawfully decide to exercise the right to enjoy his own property by throwing a big party at his home and spending tens of thousands in the process. The invitees in exercising their freedom of conscience can decide that the vaccines on offer are unsafe and, combined with their right to decide what goes into their bodies, attend unvaccinated. After circulating unmasked amongst a crowd of closely packed unmasked people exercising their freedom of expression by speaking and sometimes singing loudly above the music, some invitees may next morning exercise their freedom to travel by commercial aircraft to another country – quite possibly carrying to their destination the COVID-19 virus contracted at the party. It has been proven statistically that large gatherings attended by unconcerned persons are often COVID-19 spreader events.
Each of those rights and freedoms cited in that hypothetical “curfew party” scenario is limitable because they conflict with the inalienable constitutional right to life itself. It is the reason why someone whose conscience tells him to kill another will have his inalienable right to liberty taken away – whilst the person whose conscience tells her not to take any vaccine must consider whether her job potentially exposes the lives of others, who may not agree with her conscience.
In all established societies, it is the responsibility of government to step in where anyone’s right to life is even threatened. This came sharply into focus post 9/11 with the advent of the lengthy and inconvenient security checks all international airline passengers must bear today. Similar is the current reaction worldwide to the real deadly and transmissible COVID-19 virus. It is the reason why we must have hygiene protocols, encourage vaccination and embrace selected vaccination mandates, since the rights of those who do not want to vaccinate, or cannot be vaccinated, must be considered and allowances made for them to exercise their inalienable individual rights and freedoms alongside those who are vaccinated. With the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 deaths worldwide being of unvaccinated people, and where in Guyana, according to our Ministry of Health, only two fully vaccinated persons, with underlying conditions, have succumbed to the virus, the right to life of the society as a whole must be paramount and given effect accordingly.
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