THE nation may not have another opportunity to realise the benefits of an enhanced Bill of Rights if Zambians do not participate in the forthcoming National Referendum, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has said.
In a statement availed to the Daily Nation, LAZ president Linda Kasonde said LAZ had subsequently taken the position that it should seize the opportunity by supporting the holding of the referendum together with the elections to enhance the rights of Zambians.
“The rights provided by the proposed Bill of Rights not only add new civil and political rights such as the right to privacy, access to information, freedom of the media, protection against arbitrary detention to mention but a few but in addition introduce enforceable economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to health, education, shelter, good sanitation; all of which are desperately needed by the majority of Zambians,” she said.
Ms. Kasonde said LAZ had, therefore, taken the position that it would encourage Zambians to accept the proposed amendments and sensitise them on the implications of the referendum to the fullest extent possible.
“LAZ also hopes that the Government and all stakeholders will urgently embark on or heighten their efforts to sensitise the general public on the contents of the proposed Bill of Rights and the proposed amendments to Article 79 of the Constitution as the nation draws closer to the election date,’’ she said.
According to Ms. Kasonde, LAZ is on record as having opposed the holding of the referendum alongside the general elections and had also expressed reservations about the manner in which the referendum question had been phrased as it did not afford the voters the opportunity to take a differing view on the two issues presented before them in a single question.
“LAZ is alive to the fact that due to the history of unpredictable and inconsistent positions taken by successive governments on the constitution-making process in Zambia, the nation may not have another opportunity to realise the benefits of an enhanced Bill of Rights,” she said.