Parly indiscipline a blot on nation’s prestige
THE past two weeks have seen our collective moral fibre as a nation degenerate at an alarming rate, more particularly in the august house, Parliament. One can only hope that this is not a precursor to more mortifying conduct in the future of the venerable house.
However, it would be disingenuous of me not to make a reference to the despicable killing that occurred elsewhere around the country.
The younger brother of the Principal Chief of Koeneng and Mapoteng was brutally shot in a bar for reportedly trying to intervene in a brawl. This killing was traumatically committed before the eyes of his own elder brother, the Principal Chief.
In yet another appalling killing, a 75-years old TY, Berea, stay-alone granny was stabbed six times and had her throat slit. She was found lying in a pool of blood in her own bedroom.
To say these killings are bestial and senseless is an understatement. They are symptomatic of a society that has completely lost its moral compass.
If the culprits are not brought before the courts and appropriate stiff punishment is not meted out on them swiftly, then this will be a serious indictment on our integrity and moral worth as a nation. They deserve the stiffest sentences in the circumstances.
On the legislative front, where we expect the highest degree of decorum from our elected representatives, two incidents sadly turned the august house into a circus.
These events occurred hardly two weeks after His Majesty had delivered his Speech from the Throne in opening the house, as a symbol of our robust but respectable democracy and forum for opposing views.
The speech, which rebuked the honourable members for putting their personal interests before those of the nation and urging selflessness in serving the Basotho, was hailed throughout Lesotho as one of the best ever.
Last Tuesday, however, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Qoaling, Chalane Phori of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC), seized the ceremonial mace, walked-out of the house with it, thereby forcing the adjournment of business.
The mace is the symbol of the King’s presence and authority over the august house. It is an essential part of the regalia of Parliament symbolising the authority of the monarch as exercised by the elected assembly.
Mr Phori lost his temper when the National Assembly was debating a motion seeking to amend the Constitution and remove the powers of the Prime minister to unilaterally advise the King to prorogue Parliament. The motion sought to vest these powers on the Council of State, to advise the King.
However, the MP argued that he would not be intimidated, insisting he was not going to allow the King to be disrespected through the violation of the Maseru Facilitation Declaration (MFD), among others, which was signed by all political leaders on 2 October, 2014, restricted the business of parliament to only election-related matters.
On this one, regarding the restrictions on parliamentary business, the MP was right and spot-on. However, I have to disagree with the way he went about registering his protest. It was despicable and has to been deprecated by all and sundry, irrespective of political affiliation. It is blatant misconduct, every day of the week.
If the motion was o out-of-order or unp procedural, to which I fully agree with Mr Phori, there are acceptable and legitimate avenues of protesting against what in his view was an unacceptable motion. It is high time that the honourable MP realises that legislators debate national issues in a civilised and dignified manner even if at times in a robust manner.
MPS swear their allegiance to the King and his successors, the Constitution and other laws of the land. We cannot condone a situation where the august house is turned into a circus.
Anybody, irrespective of his or her social standing, political affiliation or how strongly he feels about a particular issue, has to debate national issues in a dignified manner. Else he or she has to face the full might of parliamentary discipline.
The house has its Standing Orders, rules and procedures that have to be brought to bear very hard on offenders. If MPS demean the dignity and respect of Parliament, the appropriate committee or authority has to come down hard on them.
We elected them to that august house because we have confidence and utmost respect for them to conduct our national business in a respectful manner. Else they do not deserve to be our representative in that august house.
Furthermore, it cannot only be parliamentary disciplinary procedures that have to be set in motion to rein-in the errant MPS but also internal party disciplinary mechanisms have to be invoked rigorously.
If the party structures and leadership do not come down hard on the culprits then this will set a bad precedent for other MPS. This behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud before it spirals out of control.
The party has to be seen to deal decisively with errant MP’S as legislators are not only the representatives of the people but are also role models to our kinds.
They are the windows to the outside world of how we behave as a nation. They are to be held to a far higher standard of behaviour than ordinary citizens.
That is why they are called “honourable”. When the citizenry itself loses its moral compass, so to speak, it’s parliament that has to rein society in. It is a disgrace that cannot be arrested by anyone if MPS themselves lose their moral high ground.
MP’S owe their allegiance, like I said before, to the Constitution and other laws of the land and above all else and critically to the King. They reflect the authority of the King over his subjects, the citizenry.
It is not for nothing that they have what is called “Parliamentary priviledge” which allows them to debate and disclose issues of national interest without the threat of litigation or prosecution except in very few exceptions, where the full might of the law can be brought on them. However, this does not denote that they are above the law.
It is only that they are accorded certain priviledges and dispensation when on the parliamentary platform so that they can do justice to issues of national importance without much legal restrictions and hindrance that we ordinary citizens, are subject to.
It is precisely because of this priviledge that we hold them to higher standards of behaviour and etiquette than ordinary citizens. MPS who flout parliamentary proce- dures and Standing Orders should promptly be brought to book and made aware of the damage they are doing to the integrity and sanctity of that house.
Parliament is headed by the sovereign, who is the supreme authority in the land, hence the ceremonial mace is carried only by the sergeant-at-arms to the clerk’s table to indicate when the august house is in session.
Much as I agree with Mr Phori’s argument on the inappropriateness of the motion, his conduct has to be deprecated by all self-respecting people. It tarnishes the good image of Parliament.
Earlier in the previous week again in the parliamentary chambers, two female MPS engaged in a fist-fight in full view of members of the august house, the Deputy Speaker and parliamentary staff.
Instead of debating national issues in a robust but dignified manner as is the tradition and purpose of the august house, the two MPS turned-pugilists made the hallowed chamber into a boxing ring.
If they want to entertain the crowds by engaging in a boxing match, there are quite a few clubs that accept female boxers. Hopefully, they will make it to the Olympics and the next Commonwealth Games.
The duo should never be allowed to turn the hallowed parliamentary chamber into a circus for pre-school kids. Mere apologies are not enough.
The parliamentary authority as well the respective party machineries should come down hard on them, through stiff disciplinary measures.
One of the hallmarks of any democratic institution is to meet the expectations of the electorate. We demand, as the electorate, stiff disciplinary measures on the MPS.
Prior to and during the prorogation of Parliament, the bona fides, integrity and conduct of some of our politicians in the public domain have suffered immeasurable harm and scorn.
We cannot afford it when few hotheads, masquerading as genuine politicians, besmirch the integrity and dignity of our leaders. If they continue in that bahaviour, they do not belong there in the first place.
They better depart the parliamentary scene gracefully and promptly, to make way for politicians who can better be entrusted with debating national issues in a dignified manner and make laws for this nation.
Parliament is the heartbeat of our young democracy and the embodiment of our vision and aspirations as a nation, under the stewardship of His Majesty.
It is a revered national platform where respectable MP’S debate national issues for the benefit of this nation.
Divergent views, or even contradictory ones, bordering on the ridiculous, sometimes, are debated in Parliament so that ultimately, what our elected legislators deem appropriate for this nation, finalise the issues.
To use the euphemism if some people feel they cannot stand the heat in Parliament, the kitchen, they better quit the kitchen. Parliament is neither for the faint-hearted, short tempered or bigoted.
It is for seasoned politicians who can stand the test of time. Neither is it for the childish who bring kindergarten antics to that august house.
I therefore strongly urge, both the parliamentary authorities and respective political party machinery, in order to avoid a repeat of these shenanigans and as deterrence, to come down hard on the errant MPS.
Our fledgling democracy, let alone its symbol of highest authority, Parliament, cannot afford the misconduct of these MP’S which border on contempt. They are slowly eroding he dignity and integrity of Parliament in the eyes of the public.
This has got to be nipped in the bud before it, like I observed, pervades, the entire national moral conscience. We better start now and lead by example as MPS entrusted with such a huge responsibility.
MPS should know better than their conduct or behaviour have a seminal influence on the rest of society because of the unique role they play. They are a yardstick through which our society is judged.
MP for Qoaling constituency Chalane Phori