This is about saving lives

Dear Editor,

The Caribbean Voice is deeply saddened by the fact that political posturing trumped the need to save lives as “a parliamentary motion expressing concern for Guyana’s alarming suicide rate, quickly descended into a politicised debate marked by blame-throwing” (as one local news media described it).

Indeed a motion calling for urgent action to save lives transformed into an argument as to who’s stealing who’s work, as our smart politicians sought to score political points rather than come together to arrest the suicide epidemic that is stalking the land.

The fact of the matter is that the PPP/C while in Government, aborted the one mechanism that was beginning to make a difference, the Gatekeepers Programme. And while the Pesticide board had agreed to roll out an adaptation of the Shri Lankan Hazard Reduction Model to tackle pesticide suicide, that went nowhere after the change of government last May.

Also we all know that the current Government just completed one year in office but at the beginning of that year the promises rained down while the only mechanism put in place so far is the suicide hotline that has neither been widely publicised nor is used to any significant extent by the population.

We are still waiting for the roll out of counsellors in schools, which, according to Education Minister Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, was set to start earlier this year, in February. Ditto for the other measures talked about – Gatekeepers’ Programme, a mechanism to address pesticide suicide, implementation of the Mental Health Plan and so on.

So it befuddles the mind that our politicians are quarrelling about who’s stealing who’s thunder while suicide continues to be a ‘norm’ with at least 15 so far for August, of which at least eight were not reported in the media.

Given that the call for collaboration echoed by both sides of the house, one would have thought that our political leaders would put heads together and come up with a plan whose implementation would reflect the urgency of necessary action.

The process of collaboration can start immediately with the only other thing both sides agreed one – decriminalising attempted suicide. We call upon the relevant ministry to draft the necessary legislation and lay it in Parliament ASAP and we request the opposition to give full support so this archaic law can be taken off the books.