KAMPALA – The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has directed the Minister for Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng to explain the delay in rolling out the Mental Health Act, 2019 despite the assent of the President.
“This House took time to research and enact the law in 2019. The Minister is required to come on Tuesday, 20 April 2021 to explain to this House why there is no commencement date two years after the law was made,” said Kadaga.
The Speaker made the directive following concerns raised by the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Betty Aol Ocan, on the status of the law during the plenary sitting on April 15, 2021.
According to the LoP, the Act was gazetted in September 2019 but without a commencement date, was not effective thus leaving the lives and rights of the intended beneficiaries at risk of having their freedoms abused.
She alluded to a news item published by NBS TV at the weekend pertaining to the hampering of rights of persons living with mental illness.
“The news story indicated that the leadership of Ntoroko district resolved to arrest all persons with mental disability roaming the streets as security measures taken to stop threats from ADF rebels. Such intended acts threaten human rights especially of people with mental illness,” said Ocan.
The LoP cited Section 1 of the Act that provided for the law to come into force on a date to be appointed by the Minister by statutory instrument, whereby different days could be appointed for the commencement of the different provisions.
“My prayer is that the Minister fixes or appoints the commencement date for the Mental Health Act, 2019 as soon as possible,” Ocan added.
The objective of the new law is to ensure the safety and protection of persons with mental illness, the protection of their rights and safety of the people who come into contact with them.
It also seeks to provide for mental health treatment at primary health centres, provide for referral for examination and for examination in mental health units as well as provide for mental health treatment for prisoners and other offenders; among others.