June 25, 2017

Where is the change that I voted for?

Dear Editor,

I am writing in protest of action to be taken by the APNU/AFC Coalition Government that would, I believe, threaten my rights and freedoms as a Guyanese citizen, especially since this action is to be taken without any form of consultation.

When I voted in May 2015, it was clear in my mind that I wanted change: I wanted to see different people in charge of the Government, different people leading policies, and different people engaged in solving our problems. Now, nearly two years later, I must say that I am somewhat disappointed, because the coalition Government has taken a piece of legislation that was essentially drafted by the previous PPP government and has decided to bring it into law without public debate or sensitization. What arrogance!! The piece of legislation has far-reaching implications for everyone, smokers and non-smokers alike.

The Coalition Government is considering the passage of the Anti-Tobacco Legislation which, as it stands now, proposes a ban on smoking in public places, including one’s home. Nothing is wrong with a ban on smoking in public spaces, but as I understand it, the legislation defines my private home as public space if persons are employed by me as general help, gardener, babysitter, or household help. If any one of these persons is employed in your private home, it is subject to the full force of the new legislation.

Therefore, if you are a smoker like me, and you happen to employ one of those persons listed above, under the new legislation you are not allowed to smoke in the your own home because of the presence of your employee(s). This renders/renders your home a “public space” subject to the vagaries of the legislation.

The ban on smoking in public places also prevents you from smoking in your private vehicle, if the said vehicle is being used to transport others.

Declaring what is public places and private spaces is already a controversial topic. However, when one’s home and private vehicle are added into the mix, it becomes an issue about which every Guyanese should be concerned.

This legislation proposes to trespass upon our constitutional rights and freedoms, and the Government doesn’t see it appropriate to have an open debate on its implication for the entire society. One of the many disappointments taken from this situation thus far, as it unfolds in the days or weeks ahead, is that I really don’t see the change I voted for in the way the Coalition Government has so far approached the pending Anti-tobacco legislation.

Sincerely,

Concerned citizen