by Brian JM Joseph
“We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following close if not on the heels of a health epidemic.” Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights.
Is this a rule-by-decree legislative bill and is the government being honest about its ulterior motives? Or is this new Covid-19 Bill 2020 just the latest to cement autorotation rule?
I understand that we live in a society where law and order have to be maintained. But I will not support repressive behaviours coming from those in authority. Anything that’s done in the name of public health and safety likewise protecting the lives of citizens, it shall have my full support.
I’m not opposing or objecting in doing the things that are necessary like social distancing, limiting movements of people via travel, but when we go too far it undermines public health.
As a people, we support uncontroversial things like the above aforementioned. But when autocrats need to violate your human rights in order to protect you, that’s a dangerous precedent that we’re setting. Although I understand there’s a genuine threat to human safety, we don’t have to impose draconian measures. When people’s right to civil liberties is violated they feel disenfranchised and it stirs up a lot of anger. This is a democracy and people’s fundamental rights and freedoms have to be respected.
Government bypassed the process of consultation and engagement with CSOs and social partners. They eventually jumped right ahead with their plans in having the Covid-19 Control Bill 2020 that was to be tabled in both Houses of Parliament. The bill had to be cancelled for further consultation with all stakeholders because the people were up in arms. All I would say is that this was prepense; it was deliberate and government knew exactly what it was doing. To say you’re wrong for what you did is just a joke. When someone knowingly does something wrong and then apologises for doing so, it shall never be considered as being genuine. Government got caught redhanded like a deer in the headlights, in having this bill tabled before the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament.
I’m not someone who will oppose something for opposing sake, but when government is seeking to impose harsh rules on its people while placing more powers in hands of law enforcement officials, likewise Minister of Health, I personally view it as “thuggish intimidation”. Therefore I’m obligated as a social activist to speak out against the bad aspects of it. I don’t follow crowds and therefore, I will never join the bandwagons of others because I’m not an attention seeker.
The Covid-19 Control Bill isn’t all that bad in its entirety. What worries many concerned citizens is the draconian aspects of the bill that seem to instill fear in people because they felt that their fundamental rights are trampled upon and that’s why they’re clamouring for the removal of those aspects.
I cannot and will not accept the level of shrouded secrecy that’s been hidden within this bill. There are too many flaws and unanswered questions and all we’re getting is unacceptable apologies from those in governance who should’ve known better. This bill has sparked so much controversy, and a bill of that magnitude should have never taken us to that state of confusion. It’s sad when there’s no collaboration between the Executive and Judicial arm of government.
My question is how did we get there and how did we arrive at this point of contention? It’s rather hypocritical and contradictory for one to make those profound statements “people have their rights to demonstrate” and then turn around in same breath and utter these words: if the Bill has been withdrawn, why are people demonstrating? And then further go on to speak of ulterior motives. All I’m seeing here is just double standards; more or less Judas behaviour.