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I am responding to a recently published letter, New Parliament must pass law against blocking of roads during protests, dated September 8, 2020. My position is that Parliament should not pass a law making it illegal to block public roadways during social or political protests. In Guyana, laws already exist for behavior that contravenes social order. Forging laws that repress political expression becomes a dangerous pathway.
The author suggests that passing this law will stop the hindrance of traffic because there could be only one roadway to traverse. This may be true; however, suggesting that the USA serves as a paragon where protesters can block a roadway, yet there are millions of miles of alternative roads drowns out the memory that it was the American Revolution that paved the way for said possibilities. Ask the Americans what laws were in place against the British Empire. The author also suggests that blocking the roads will hamper rescue. That may be true. However, consider the Apartheid laws of South Africa that did not quell those protesters. Would the author suggest that those protesters as much as the current protesters are not aware of the collective safety in their communities? The author also mentions some people may be exercising freedom of movement such as catching planes and going to business appointments, but the author fails to recognize that making others uncomfortable and inconvenienced may wake them from their slumber. Is a fair question to ask about the actions of those who came out to protest the recent national elections falling under the umbrella of “a law stipulating severe penalties for blocking the main highway”? I would like to ask the author: Where was your proposal for laws against blocking highways? I would like to ask the author: Do you think the actions of Forbes and Cheddie on behalf of the Guyanese people were illegal?
I will not go down the rabbit hole whether all lives matter or only Black lives matter. That will be left for discussions in semantics. However, laws that work on behalf of all lives down to the poorest among us should be enacted. I would propose a law that brings relief to citizens who paid their taxes but must endure those who ignore fixing potholes and the lack of management of the common landscape. How about a law enacted that states for every one-minute loss of electricity, when the power returns each minute that was lost is reimbursed? How about a law that stipulates if anyone interacting with the government has to visit more than one ministry or agency to get a situation resolved and the first ministry of contact or agency failed to resolve the issue then if that original ministry or agency of first contact resolves the issue, then that entity pays the complainant one thousand dollars for each day there was no resolution? How about a law that addresses the issue of microlending for small businesses at no more that 2% interest rate? Guyana does not need laws to repress political expression. Guyana needs laws that create efficiency and especially any that will bring it up to par with the developing world. Guyana needs laws that free the people, not those that repress.
Les Archer, PhD