ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Senator Malaka Parker has agreed to support the efforts of the Antigua & Barbuda Association of Persons Living with Disabilities to ratify the UN Convention concerning persons living with disabilities.
President of the association Bernard Warner and PRO Louise Herbert met with Senator Parker and the Minister of Public Works Trevor Walker on Friday to discuss plans to move forward in ratifying the convention.
Herbert told OBSERVER Media yesterday that Parker said getting the convention rarified is not the issue, it is the implementation process that will prove to be a tedious task.
Parker told Warner and Herbert that it would be beneficial to acquire the legislation documents of other Caribbean islands, such as Jamaica, that have already ratified so that they would not only have an outline to work with, but that it could be taken to Parliament where the decision to ratify can further be discussed.
Parker also encouraged the association to tackle the issue from a human rights standpoint to garner greater support. “In our efforts to get the convention ratified we must pool all our resources together and take into consideration the human rights’ perspective so that we can get more persons on board,” said Herbert.
Herbert said that Parker instructed the association to not only focus on the disabled, but to include other organisations such as the Cancer Society and the Citizens Welfare Division for example, to gain additional support. As Herbert said, “these other organisations are not necessarily disabled but they have human rights (issues).”
“If we take it from that angle, inclusive of everyone, with disability at the helm of it, we’ll be able to get a faster moving process. We’ll have a better foundation and with that foundation we can pool all our resources together and get the convention ratified,” Herbert added.
At present, Antigua & Barbuda does not have a human rights bill. However, if the ratification of the convention proves successful, plans would then be implemented towards developing one.
Herbert said the ratification process would include gaining government official’s stamp of approval on related documents. She also said, “Getting it ratified is not the biggest part, it is the implementation of the ratification.”
Once the ratification has been implemented organisations such as the Development Control Authority, for example, would have to ensure that, “when structures are being built they must have accessibility for all persons with disabilities, she said.
The disabilities PRO also explained that as part of the convention persons with disabilities should have access to schools, the health system, the educational system and accessibility to education and technology, without discrimination or bias.
The association is in the process of getting a copy or draft of the legislation from neighboring countries.
“That legislation will be brought to the Minister (Wilmoth Daniel) and Senator Parker at a meeting and that meeting would include Pastor Karen Brotherson who is the head of the Ministry of Health’s Human Rights Unit.
These key persons will be involved in this particular meeting and then we’ll take it to Parliament.
Even if the Minister has to present the argument of the debate first and then we bring the legislation and he takes it back … whether it goes first or after it must be on the books and that is going to be our next step,” said Herbert.
“As it goes into Parliament we on the outside will continue to educate the public [and] have workshops, and do different things so that we have both inside and outside support,” she added.
The Disability Association has met with other stakeholders such as Breast Friends, the Cancer Society, Sickle Cell Association, Dyslexia Association and LIME to inform and further educate them about the developments that have been taking place concerning ratifying the convention. Herbert said she hopes to include the private sector during the next meeting.
Herbert has gained support from the Ombudsman and has arranged to speak with Minister Daniel on the matter.
“No matter how many other ministers we go to, he has to bring it to Cabinet because he is the minister responsible for us,” Herbert said.