Just when I thought that the 2016 elections are getting closer, and our “honourable” parliament was getting busier with panic, I got reminded that I am wrong. The small news item that caught my eye was the intention or plans by our Members of Parliament to put a permanent ban on shisha smoking. For those that may not know, shisha is a mainly flavored and condensed tobacco, smoked through a pipe. I am not a doctor, and neither am I a chemist. I therefore will not get into the extent of effect on its smokers, both active and passive. Besides, that is off the point.
Parliament did not just sit, this was an emergency session-to discuss the ban on shisha!
This brings me to the question that we need to answer, as taxpayers. To what extent should our legislature, legislate? Put in another way; what matters-for purposes of making law-should be discussed before our parliament? The answer seems very obvious: all matters of national importance. True.
But does our parliament have all the time to discuss every single matter of national importance? My answer is NO. One will, at this time ask: so what happens to other matters that are not solved by parliament? This question leads me to where we are going.
An effective parliament does not have to talk about every single element of life: roads, bridges, children, drugs, cars, bulbs, grass, forests……… An effective parliament/government draws effective policy. Policy that reflects all aspects of life. Proper planning/policy formulation, without doubt solves most problematic aspects of any state without necessarily going trivial in legislation. That was question one.
My second question: to what extent? Should parliament legislate on just anything? I have always held an opinion that private matters, or matters of an individual should bot be the business of the state. Reason is simple: it is giving the state too much powers/leverage. The structure any society is that the political structure is already empowered, leaving the individual powerless, largely at the mercy of the state. Giving the state the right over the private life of an individual is one of the highest forms of human rights abuse.
Why should the state decide what I eat, what I dress in, my religion, my sexual orientation, what I watch on TV, what I read…..? How is one’s private life of concern to the state?? There is a line that must not be crossed. The individual must jealously guard his/her dignity.
Obviously, if the actions of an individual affect a third-party, the state comes in; not to stop the individual from enjoying his/her right, but to regulate his enjoyment of such a right in such a way that other people are not affected negatively.
We have so many newspapers on the street. If you do not like looking at the Red Pepper, there is the Observer for you. It is about choice. If you feel like music TV channels are rather too pornographic, there are all sort of channels you may chose from. There should be no reason, whatsoever, to deny a certain class of people their private choices, just because you do not like them. And the state must desist from participating in such discriminatory decisions. Shisha is on the market. It is legally imported. Taxes are paid. It is a legal item. Smoking shisha is not criminal under the laws of Uganda. Most importantly, no one has been forced to smoke shisha. It is a matter of choice by a person of majority age. Bars that serve shisha are well known. If one individual feels like shisha does not work for him/her. He has a right to go to another bar, with unpolluted air. That is the beauty of the world! Choice! But it is very unfair for one to deny other people a chance to smoke, just because he/she does not like it. The same applies to TV, magazines, newspapers, radio, movies, and may others.
Another person will say: our children. They are being affected by all this pornography on TV and in newspapers. The responsibility to raise a child is the parents, until the child is of majority age. You do not deny other people a chance to enjoy what they love, just because you have failed to raise your own children. Spend some good time with your children. A TV set has never been a parent!
My message to our dear MPs is simple: this country has real problems. Gross misuse of public money, unemployment, chronic institutional failure, premature politics, terrible infrastructure. Ugandans are very poor. Those are real problems. Kindly save us that drama of: homosexuals, mini-skirts, shisha….. Solve real problems. Do not humiliate our parliamentary buildings by discussing petty matters. Grow up.
Lest I forget….
The recent events in Rwanda are interesting. Very. Mr. Andrew Mujuni Mwenda has a debt to pay. Let that be a topic for another day.