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Parley shenanigans: Let’s respect one another

Publishing Date : 13 July, 2015

Author : EDITOR

It is very important that our Members of Parliament protect the integrity of the law making house. Its image as the supreme law making house should be paramount, no matter the political differences. Our Parliament represents our aspirations; it is our national symbol, our pride.

Two incidents that occurred this past week, resulting in some Members of Parliament being forcefully removed and physically treated should not happen again. The scenes from Parliament have the potential to give people a wrong impression about the character of our politicians, and our security personnel.

Another issue that seems to reverberate is that of the impartiality of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. We hasten to point out that the impartiality is of utmost importance and should never be in doubt. A Speaker plays an important role in ensuring order and peace in the House and of course among political formations.

At the same time MPs should not act in a manner that will push the Speaker, or whoever is controlling proceedings, to the edge. The conduct of MPs is critical to that of the Speaker.  The Speaker must command the respect of MPs across the political divide.

MPs should also have an obligation to respect and accept the ruling made by the Speaker of the National Assembly or her deputy. While the Speaker is given powers to make rulings over various matters in Parliament, the Speaker should also do so on reasonable grounds without abusing his or her powers. More so that the Standing Orders regard the speaker’s ruling as final and MPs should obey it.

This week we saw a very untidy situation in Parliament which resulted in the removal of MPs from the House – albeit with an exaggerated force and use of security personnel. The development was not only wrong but also demeaned the integrity of Parliament and the players involved.

It is vital that decorum is observed by all MPs, including the Speaker, more so that the elected representatives in Parliament mirror the people who voted them into the house.

Parliament should remain independent – and there should be no intimidation and Members of Parliament should be free to debate issues on the floor without fear or interference from security officers or anyone else.

However for this to be achieved, it has to be through willingness to cooperate. MPs should also respect the Business of the House, more so that they are always aware of it before the House starts. Any urgent introduced should be done through process or laid down procedure.

Members of the National Assembly, Speakers included should differ in a civil manner, be tolerant to the views of others and respect that every single member represents the ideals of his constituents. And much more, Parliament should put the interest of the nation first.

If agreement cannot be reached in Parliament on simple issues of what to discuss and when, which other institution can achieve that? There is no principle which guide parliament more than freedom of speech; hence MPs should be allowed to speak their minds without fear of prosecution – but they should also follow process and obey rules.

Botswana has come a long way, and has made a name for herself as a beacon of democracy in Africa. Many countries have and continue to envy our democracy, peace and stability and we should not trade that for short term political expediency. We have so far gained a lot as a country and should not spoil it overnight with issues that could very easily be avoided.

Our leaders should tread carefully lest we degenerate to the status of some of our neighbours where the relationship between the Speaker and opposition parties is unworkable. Defying the speaker of Parliament is wrong, just as much as the Speaker ordering forcible removal of MPs by security personnel is also wrong.

While it is clear that the ruling made by Deputy Speaker of Parliament was defied, the Deputy Speaker also took a decision which was unlawful by using security personnel to remove Dr Phenyo Butale from the floor of parliament. Where should we draw the line then, going forward? Parliament integrity remains paramount, lest we forget. Botho is the key word in the final analysis!



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