Constitutional rights are “not absolute”- vaccination can be mandated, lawyers say

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By Latrishka Thomas

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“This issue of a choice to take or not to take without consequences is a fiction,” said senior counsel Anthony Astaphan as he explained that constitutional rights are “not absolute or unqualified”.

Astaphan made this statement in a discussion on state media regarding the constitutionality of mandatory vaccination.

He was joined by learned attorney Kenny Kentish who agreed that mandatory vaccination is justifiable by law.

Senior counsel Anthony Astaphan & Attorney Kenny Kentish

 “There is no such thing as an absolute right. The most important human right that you can think of is probably the right to life but there are laws that provide for circumstances in which the death penalty could be applied,” Kentish added.

Astaphan elaborated by sharing a few existing precedents which support the idea that rights and freedoms can be regulated by the government.

He said that in 1975 the Court of Appeal, in a matter of public order as opposed to public health, said this: “By reason of section one of the constitution and by the very definition of the rights themselves contained in chapter one, there is no such thing as an absolute, unqualified, fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution.”

He continued that the entitlement to fundamental rights and freedoms is guaranteed “subject to the respect of the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest”.

“The freedom of the rights and freedoms may be regulated for the purpose of ensuring that their enjoying by an individual … does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others of the public interest,” he said.

Astaphan concretised his point by saying that this case and others have been used in recent times.

Kentish went on to say that “it is important to emphasise the constitution itself, repeatedly it makes reference to the fact that the rights which we are given are subject to laws making provision for public order, public health and public defence”.

The legal luminaries then gave their stamp of approval for mandatory vaccination.

Kentish said, “It should apply to everyone who does not have a medically certified reason for taking it.”

Similarly, Astaphan stated, “It is absolutely clear that with the escalating figures, with the situation at the hospital, with the Prime Minister indicating that they have to build another centre somewhere for Covid…and the number of people dying and the fact that children are being affected in a very serious way…the mandate is becoming a must.”

He however suggested that “we need to start with those who hold key positions in society”.

“Your child or your son is sick, you take them to the hospital, you leave with the fullest confidence that they will be taken care of by persons who pose no risk to them,” he said, giving an example.

Both attorneys also stated that persons who refuse to abide by the government’s ‘vaccinate or test’ policy can be laid off “in order to protect the integrity of the rest of the persons”.

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