• 24 Feb, 2024

PPP Government’s “Rasta Appeasement Bill” sends mixed messages on drugs, can harm Indo communities

PPP Government’s “Rasta Appeasement Bill” sends mixed messages on drugs, can harm Indo communities

PPP Government’s “Rasta Appeasement Bill” sends mixed messages on drugs, can harm Indo communities

In Guyana, every week, several folks are charged for drugs as authorities find large acreages being grown and many are engaged in trafficking. In local, rural villages, drugs are rampant. Removing the stigma and punishment on drug possession and use will harm Indo communities in the long run. Now our religious and community leaders must fight this scourge with strong anti-drugs messages.


The big message in the PPP’s recently passed “Drugs Bill” is that “you not going to jail for up to 30 grammes of    marijuana .” The big message is not “don’t do drugs; drugs are addictive substances that can destroy your life and future.” This makes the Government an unwitting “enabler” of drug use. Guyana is going down the wrong direction with this bill, which it boasts was in keeping with its 2020 Election Manifesto. In substance abuse prevention, “messaging” is important, and we do not send “mixed messages,” as this bill does. This is a “sin without guilt and punishment” bill. Why the rush to keep this silly promise that will hurt our people including the youths, at a time when drugs are rampant all over the country and fuelling much crime? Nation, won’t we like to also see the PPP keep its election promise that it will “review and renegotiate” the worst oil contract in the world, which can bring in mega-billions for our working poor to have a better life, in these hard guava season times? Why is the Government not excited to keep this mother of all election promises, but is rushing to facilitate drug use? Maybe if people are on drugs, they would not listen to Glenn Lall’s/SN’s messages on renegotiation of the oil contracts nor pay attention to possible corruption in all the infrastructural projects, and that’s good for the politicians in both the PPP and PNC. The Good Book says if we “sow to the wind, we will reap the whirlwind” ( Hosea 8:7). Guyana will regret this new law. 


At least the Rasta folks had the courage of their convictions to show up and beat their drums outside of Parliament in support of the “Drugs are OK Bill.” Where were all our apostle, prophet and bishop friends? And the Inter-Religious Council folks? I remember the words of another “real” prophet who said, “His watchmen   are   blind: they are all ignorant, they   are   all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber”   (Isaiah 56:10). Nation, these church folks and civil society folks have really let us down by not protesting the Government’s backward direction in sending a strong message that small quantities of drugs are OK. There was a very good reason Mr. Granger’s PNC did not push this bill. Perhaps, Mr. Granger understands the long-term effects a bill like this can have on his constituencies. I don’t consider it a failure that the PNC did not push this bill. I consider it to be great wisdom to stall it. The PPP’s boast that the PNC did not pass this bill, and that the PPP passed it is an empty achievement. That puts them in the “Hall of Shame,” not the “Hall of Fame.” Now the PNC, which skulked from Parliament can say, “Is the PPP decriminalising drugs. We did not vote for that!” In things that matter most such as a revamped compensation and income support system for all workers and pensioners, they lag behind. 


It is reported that the AG said, “We never promised decriminalisation, we promised removing custodial sentences for up to 30 grammes and that is what we are delivering today.” Since Guyana likes to be a copycat of wrong things in the west, this is a first step towards eventual decriminalization and widespread recreational use of drugs as happens in some western countries. This is not simply a removal of fines and custodial sentences. We are sending a strong message to young people, school children, young girls and women, that “if you use ‘lil’ drugs, it’s not a big problem.” If you are caught, they will ask somebody to talk to you. Since Guyana does not have trained, professional substance abuse counselors in every region, the notion that counseling alone will dissuade people from using drugs is so laughable as a national strategy. I imagine a counseling session will go something like this - Pretend Counselor: “Boy, ah wah you use drugs fah?” Drug user: “Meh sarry.” Pretend Counselor: “Nah do that again.” Did the AG say in his speech, how many substance abuse counselors we have in each region, what treatment facilities we have, or what bureaucratic structures we would have to set up in each region to administer this counseling and community service program?  We seem to be ill-prepared for this, the way we are ill-prepared to manage oil. If we remove fines and custodial sentences, what do we do for repeat offenders? Will schools now be spending much time policing for 1-30 grammes of drugs rather than focusing on education. Does the Government know that “counseling” is not a punishment or a sentence, it is a “treatment?” We are moving backwards, destroying our culture, with this new drugs bill. 



Dr. Jerry Jailall