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Daly Bread: How many more must die while we await vaccination legislation?

Nearly three months ago, in a column published on 5 September, I called on the Government to consider legislative options in the face of the Delta variant threat.

I wrote as follows: ‘Given the low rate of vaccination, our population is wide open to death or hospitalisation from the Delta variant. 

Photo: A sample comes back as positive for the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus.
(via Shutterstock)

‘The Government impotently waits around while its bouffes have failed to motivate the population to get vaccinated. Instead, has the time come for legislation, which confirms a margin of flexibility for school principals and employers, to treat with the unvaccinated in the administration of their respective businesses, to be put out for public comment and for consultation on this with the Opposition?’

The Government did nothing on the legislative front despite having clear options. Recently it resorted to uttering unsweet nothings but taking no additional action, despite the increasingly dire situation. How many more must die?

The first clear option the Government had was to act under the State of Emergency. While this was in force, it had the easy option of accessing the straightforward exception contained in section 7(3) of the Constitution permitting legislation inconsistent with the fundamental rights provisions.

It must be emphasised that a State of Emergency does not, as a matter of law, require any lockdown or curfew or other curtailments of rights.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley delivers an address to the nation on Thursday 25 November 2021.

Without a State of emergency, if consultation does not bear the fruit of Opposition support, simple majority legislation is available in light of the illuminating decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and other courts around the world.

The specialist human rights European court has refused to rule that the assertion of individual constitutional rights can prevent the implementation of carefully structured vaccination legislation.

The Government must be well aware of this because the seminal decision delivered in April 2021 has been referenced in the Trinidad Express newspaper and elsewhere. See, for example, Sunday Express 13 June 2021, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine Mandatory Covid-19 vaccines.

Last week, belatedly and with characteristic timidity, some business chambers were calling for action on mandatory vaccinations when the Delta has already fatally run through us. We now have the Omicron variant following, ready to feast on us even before the ill-advised promise of some nebulously limited form of elitist Carnival, which is bound to turn into typical Trini revelry.

Photo: Funeral workers in PPE gear prepare to bury a Covid-19 victim in the US.

Given our weakness for sweetness is the promise of the annual big fete, when the guavas of this prolonged guava season have been eaten down to seeds, intended as some sweetness to restore calmness after we have been kicked around?  

This mode of inquiry is drawn from the lyrics of the musical work of Kilo Kish Frustrations+Solutions.  

This is an interesting example of genres of music that have come to my closer attention because such music is regularly used as soundtracks for movies and television series. These genres remind me of the defiance of We Jammin’ Still and Wrong Again.

It is painfully obvious that the Government felt compelled by indecent partisan political expediency to avoid a controversial measure like vaccination legislation during an election season.  

Can we therefore expect the Government to clear its head after the announcement of the result of the Tobago House of Assembly elections tomorrow, unless of course it gets a Tobago morning-after headache? How many have died meanwhile?

Photo: PDP deputy political leader Farley Augustine.

Moreover, as a result of participation in a panel discussion on Tuesday last on vaccination mandates, I learned from the formidable Ozzi Warwick of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union that there is in existence a draft national vaccination policy on which business and labour had agreed.  

Why was the Government  concealing this? How could any perceived political convenience justify this? Why would business and labour not call for the release of the policy document?

While we have been waiting to see who gets the post-Tobago-election headache, another impropriety rattling the guardrails of the Constitution was committed.  I refer to the disclosure of Independent Senator Anthony Vieira that he had received WhatsApp messages of support  from two Court of Appeal judges regarding his motion in the Senate to censure the Opposition. 

Is this what members of the Judiciary do? I expect guidance from the Law Association on this revelation.

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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