“I DAE FEAR AYE!!”
June 23, 2021
By: Winstanley.R.Bankole. Johnson
I find government notices forbidding citizens from entering Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) both disingenuous and – in the absence of any Constitutional Instrument to the effect – out rightly illegal, tantamount to an infraction of our civic and constitutional rights and freedoms of movement. The dis-ingenuity of it all stems from the fact that the decision wasn’t based on sound statistical information that vaccination of a greater percentage of the population had first been facilitated and achieved to justify it, whereas on the illegality aspect of the notices, no penal codes are cited for those attempting to contravene it by not meeting the requisite conditions.
Taking vaccinations all over the world is voluntary – whether under a pandemic or not – and even the World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized that several times over. So beyond an attempt to intimidate us as usual, what else would have motivated this “Talk and Do” administration that purports to prioritize citizens interests into promoting or supporting such an acceptably unpopular option? I ask that question because the documentary evidences on social media and public reactions thereto amply speaks to the contrary. For example: whereas the two-page Presser captioned “Public Notice On Measures to Curb Covid-19 Third Wave” dated 17th – supports a ban purportedly because of surging cases in the previous two weeks – another government Presser issued under the hand of Kekehtoma Sandy and dated 16th (just a day earlier) encouraged citizens to throng the streets in a tumultuous Carnival-like welcome of our Darling Leone Stars from Guinea. How and why the obvious risks inherent in that fertile super community spreader of an event never occurred to any of the President’s advisers, having full regard of their awareness and acquiescence per their Presser of 17th that there had been a surge of Covid-19 “Third Wave in the previous two weeks” isn’t hard to fathom: Cheap populist politics. Nothing more: Nothing less. And by all indications in terms of confirmed Covid-19 caseloads it has boomeranged.
In an environment of sustained unpopularity within the Western Regions (not necessarily because of APC Versus SLPP rivalry but more because this government simply doesn’t know how to retain even their own loyalists let alone win over new hearts and minds), the “Pa-O-Panistas” chose to capitalize on the victory of Leone Stars via that “shirtless and mask-less” Street Carnival as it was the very first and only opportunity in three straight years since his ascendancy for President Bio to mingle and revel with the masses so freely. It was too good and too rare an opportunity to miss, so health and safety guidelines (whether for “First”, “Second” or “Third” Wave) were jettisoned into second spot. That was in fact a clear abuse of office and authority by the Presidents’ Advisers and the Organizers of the event for which the Anti-Corruption Commissioner ought to have pro-actively reprimanded them.
Cowards and serfs who wish to can continue to maintain their reticence on the matter, but all freeborn who cherish their fundamental civic and constitutional rights must speak up whenever those rights seem threatened as they would seem to be in this case. In the absence of the necessary Parliamentary Constitutional Instrument mandating same, accessing vaccinations should be voluntary because personal health choices have to be made personally, not for any government agency (in this case the NACOVERC) to arbitrarily decide. That’s Bush!!
Without such overt expression of personal choices, vaccinations must not, and should not be arbitrarily or mandatorily enforced by any government or its agents on citizens. Where did the NACOVERC derive such powers? Perhaps we should demand publication of the full Terms of Reference (TOR) of the NACOVERC to assist us verify whether by their fiat some of the “Executive Powers” of HE the President was vested in them, or whether same was conveyed by Parliamentary assent. This demand to fully publish their TOR is necessary because there are times when certain imperious traits can make deeper consultations within a democratic environment anathematic, and once that becomes ingrained it is difficult to distinguish between a commitment to national duty and loyalty to individuals.
In hindsight when during the last elections the APC government attempted to prohibit/restrict vehicular traffic on polling days the SLPP went berserk in opposing that proposal (which I daresay from the then government’s perspectives was in their best interests). My worry about this government making vaccinations a prerequisite for anything –including entry into MDAs – is that if they got away with it willy-nilly this once, what if they decide to do so, will stop them from making the same vaccination evidences a prerequisite to vote come 2022 and 2023 and by which time it will be too late to protest. That is to say: “No Vaccination Evidence: No Vote!!”
“I dae fear aye!!!” To be forewarned is to be forearmed. “Lonta!!”
And I will emphasize on that drawing from recent experiences when:
Come to think of it the MDA entry prohibitions would have resonated well if the government had facilitated vaccinations for say over 60% of the population as at the time of the Presser, and incorporating ingenuously into it a timeline against by which citizens should be vaccinated, failing which punitive measures such as the MDAs are announcing now would come into effect. But to have just issued a Presser over the weekend to commence the very next Monday week was mindless, and with absolutely no regard for the socio-economic effects on the country.
Did anyone give a hoot about what it will be costing importers as demurrages, contractors and the business community at large as Bank borrowing interests on being denied accesses to the NRA, the Quay and MDAs because they had not been vaccinated? There was utter chaos at the NRA and all Shipping Agencies on Monday, inadvertently providing fertile grounds for accelerated community transmission of the virus. What about the extent to which government offices will for some time be looking like ghost stations with civil servants abandoning their posts on the excuse of going to take their first doses of the vaccine? And how about citizens whose religious persuasions prohibit hospitalization or the administration of drugs – oral or intravenous? I feel some urgent re-thinking is necessary.
But here is our ace: In many countries including the UK citizens are allowed to produce evidence of one of three options, failing which they could be denied access anywhere: (1) Evidence of vaccination (2) Evidence of a valid PCR Test and (3) evidence of a Discharge Certificate from a Covid-19 Treatment Center. By the NACOVERC not recognizing and approving the latter two options, or the fact that all former Covid-19 victims are as temporarily secured as anyone taking both jabs of the vaccines and by further not having included that in their Presser of 17th as qualification to enter MDAs after 22nd is by itself discriminatory.
Before being issued with their Certificates of Discharge, every Covid-19 patient is upon release from a Treatment Center run through a 15-20 minutes counselling session by qualified Medical Practitioners, during which sessions they are assured of 99.9% immunity from fresh attacks by the same strain of the virus. So as far as I and many other former Covid-19 Victims are concerned we will not be easily volunteering for any of the vaccines unless and until our cases are fully defined or clarified by the Ministry of Health in the same way cases of Ebola survivors were clarified and treated with respect. The government has to take a position on our cases as we will not be discriminated or marginalized twice. If former Covid-19 Victims the world over can be recognized for their immunity potentials (whether temporary or permanent is irrelevant), why should Sierra Leone be different?
“Strains Vs Waves”
Some pertinent questions are also worth asking to determine whether or not the NACOVERC are on top of the situation or they are just apishly imitating (fallamakata) off-shore nomenclatures, procedures and guidelines some of which may not even be applicable here. Now in fashion are talks about a “Third Wave”, but what is the status of the “First” and “Second” “Waves” of the pandemic that engulfed this country between 31st March 2020 to date? Have they subsided or been defeated? Rule five (5) of the Presser dated 17th makes “at least one dose of the Covid-19” a prerequisite to enter MDAs effective 22nd June, but for which particular “Strain” or “Wave” are the first and/or second jab efficacious? The “First”, “Second” or “Third” Wave? Before we were hearing about “Brazilian”, “Indian” and “South African” Strains. Now we’re taking about “Waves”. If they are describing one and the same things which “Wave” applies to which particular “Strain”?
According to the WHO obtaining any of the jabs will neither stop transmission nor prevent anyone that has taken one or both jabs from becoming further infected by the virus. Further no vaccine manufacturer can be made liable for compensation on account of damages to patients’ lives or even death, even where there has been quite a number of instances of that because the vaccines are still in the “experimental” stages. The virus they say is something that we will have to live with and for the rest of our lives we will have to be needing periodic boosters of it to manage future waves. So be it! But for God’s sake let us have a right to exercise our constitutional option of choice, instead of the government or its agents making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory. And of course, the Ministry of Health must clarify the immunity status of former Covid-19 (whether temporary or not), failing which I and many other former Victims we will not be volunteering for any of the vaccines, because we cannot afford to be discriminated against or marginalized twice.
Meantime as government continues to intensify access to the jabs for all and sundry I will urge all including MDAs, public offices, recreational/social services center managers and individuals to also revert to stringent observance of standard government health and safety policies such as-: Staggered Workdays; De-congested Work Environments; No Mask: No Entry; Social Distancing and Frequent Hand wash/Uses of Alcohol-based Sanitizers.