The Suicide Motion moved tonight in the National Assembly by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party was rejected.
As the debate ensued, Opposition Member of Parliament Dr Vindhya Persaud urged that the motion be supported since undoubtedly the problem of suicide exists and needs to be fixed, but this was to no avail as the Government side, which holds a majority voted against it.
Dr Persaud in her presentation pointed to the fact that there has been no budgetary allocation to tackle the scourge and this she pointed out is necessary if Government is serious about effectively tackling suicide.
The MP dismissed earlier suggestions made by Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan that the opposition is insinuating that nothing is being done by the Government as it relates to suicide awareness. It was clarified that the opposition believes that more needs to be done.
The call was made for the decentralising of services so that citizens in every region can have access to support mechanisms. A clear vision, she argued is necessary going forward.
The opposition member maintained that regions 2 and 6 be treated as priority areas since according to her these are the most affected areas. She alluded to the spike in suicide and attempted suicides in 2016.
Dr Persaud also dismissed claims by Minister Ramjattan that the opposition’s call for a suicide unit to be placed in region 6 is an attempt to treat the issue like a political football.
Minister Ramjattan during his presentation argued that Government has commenced a number of initiatives aimed at addressing suicide, acknowledging that more work is needed to adequately tackle this social problem that has gripped the country for many years.
However, the Minister pointed to a number of recommendations that were made in a 2012 report following a survey on suicide in Guyana that was conducted by Peace Corps Volunteer Michael Fallahay.
Fallahay had conducted this survey with support from the Mibicuri Community Developers in the Black Bush Polder area. Ramjattan said recommendations such as the restriction of access to toxic agricultural chemicals were never followed through by the previous administration, but assured that Government has already engaged the Toxic Chemicals and Control Board in this regard.
He also dispelled Opposition claims that the Government has not been accommodating Non-Governmental Organisations that are a part of the suicide awareness fight. This, he said is an unfair and “not very honest ” accusation.
The Government MP argued that statistics have proven that contrary to what is being touted, the majority of the suicides and attempted suicides occur in region 4 and nearby regions, hence it is his contention that services should remain centralised.
He did support the aspect of the motion that urged the decriminalisation of suicide, noting that persons who attempted suicide should be rehabilitated and not incarcerated. Ramjattan invited the Opposition to collaborate with the Government for the development and implementation of a suicide plan.
Additionally, Ramjattan shared the view that there is a culture of silence in Guyana as it relates to suicide, one that needs to be changed.