Saturday, January 22, 2022

DIS plan to block BONELA lobby against controversial bill flops

The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) allegedly deployed its agents to stop members of the Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) from distributing letters intended to lobby Members of Parliament against the controversial Health Bill which seeks to strip people living with AIDS of their privacy.

BONELA Executive Secretary, Uyapo Ndadi, who spoke against the DIS attempt to block their lobby, told Sunday Standard that they were able to outmaneuver security agents deployed by the intelligence outfit. The public health bill tabled in parliament this week seeks among other things to strip people living with HIV/AIDS of their right to privacy.

Palapye MP, Master Goya, spurned the BONELA lobby, slamming the NGO for distributing letters lobbying MP’s to reject the bill. Goya who went ahead to support the bill from the parliament floor was however attacked by fellow MPs who questioned whether he was speaking on behalf of his constituency by supporting the bill before consulting his electorates.

Parliament was divided on whether the public health bill should be deferred or passed after a number MPs raised concerns about some provisions of the bill. MPs contentions came after BONELA lobbied MPs to reject the bill pointing out that some of its provisions may be in violation of human rights.

BONELA argued that the bill had a potential to stoke discrimination among people living with HIV.
Maun West MP, Tawana Moremi, called for the bill to be deferred pending consultations with the masses and relevant stakeholders.

Molepolole MP, Daniel Kwelagobe, agreed with Moremi and said there was no need to rush the bill when some pockets of the community were unhappy with some of its provisions. Kwelagobe warned that parliament should not be seen to be passing laws that the electorates will view as not serving them.
He argued that he was not against the bill but there was need for consultations before the bill becomes law.

Scores of MPs called on the Minister of Health, Dr John Seakgosing, to respect the voice of civil society organisations such as BONELA and afford them time through consultations to respond to the bill. Dr Seakgosing informed parliament that the bill was intended to cover children’s health by making childhood immunization compulsory. He further noted that this will include the pneumococcal vaccination recently introduced for to those aged two to four months countrywide. This provision is expected to cause uproar among members of Bazezuru community who have long resisted government’s attempt to vaccinate and immunize their children.

He said that the bill also seeks to empower medical practitioners to conduct HIV/AIDs without patients consent.

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