Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall says that the Guyana Government’s anti-COVID-19 measures, which impose mandatory vaccination, do not violate Civil liberties and Constitutional freedoms.
“The COVID-19 measures that are being implemented in Guyana is no different from those that have been implemented in North America, Europe, and the rest of the Caribbean…And they are in keeping with the general guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation and PAHO (Pan-American Health Organisation). These guidelines, in my view, do not contradict, contravene, or are inconsistent with any Constitutional Right or civil liberties or constitutional freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution or the laws of our country,” Nandlall said during his recent live show, “Issues in the News”.
Since the rollout of the vaccination programme, the Health Ministry has been grappling with vaccine hesitancy. Following closely on its heels was the ‘My Body, My Choice’ movement, calling for an end to mandatory vaccination policy as nurses, doctors, and teachers faced locked out. Earlier this month, the government included in its revised order, mandatory vaccination for a wide section of the Guyanese population. Operators within the public transportation sector must now be vaccinated. Meanwhile, persons visiting public agencies must present a vaccination card to access basic walk-in services. The unvaccinated have been asked to make appointments. Persons visiting private agencies must also show proof of vaccination. Exemptions have been made for those seeking medical attention.
Nandlall said that the Constitution, which provides freedoms such as movement, free speech, and association, also says that mechanisms must be set in motion to curtail the spread of infectious diseases. The COVID-19 measures, the AG posited, is such a mechanism.
“…An order can be made under the Public Health Order to protect public health, and that order can restrict your freedom in the public interest. And that is exactly what the COVID-19 measures have done. So, we’ve examined those, and we didn’t find any kind of violation,” the AG noted.
Nandlall said balance is needed when talking about rights and freedoms. He posited that while persons refuse a vaccine and claim it is their right, they must also be cognizant of the rights and freedoms of others, that is, to exist in a safe environment and ensure the preservation of life.
“Also, you don’t have any absolute right; your rights are subject to the rights and freedom of others, and there must be this coexistence and balancing of competing interests. So, you have a right, yes, but other people have rights too. In the exercise of your rights, you have to take into account the rights of other people. That’s how civilization comes about,” he stated.