What if par­lia­men­tar­i­ans refuse to go?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea Shale

THOUGH it is a common prac­tice that par­lia­ment ad­journs sine die in prepa­ra­tion for dis­so­lu­tion, this time there are many is­sues raised in relation to that process.

Chief among th­ese is­sues is whether mem­bers of Na­tional Assem­bly will shoot down the Mo­tion of Ad­journ­ment in a bid to hold gov­ern­ment to ran­som for the set­tle­ment of the in­di­vid­ual mem­ber loans.

The ques­tions that peo­ple ask in­clude, is it true that Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPs) will refuse to go home un­less gov­ern­ment com­mits to pay off their loans, what are the im­pli­ca­tions of the re­jec­tion of the mo­tion of ad­journ­ment, will that act pre­vent par­lia­ment from be­ing dis­solved and con­se­quen­tially dis­rupt the planned early elec­tion which came as part of so­lu­tion to the Le­sotho’s po­lit­i­cal stand­off?

Although this ar­ti­cle may wish to choose the one on re­fusal of MPs to go home, per­haps the eas­i­est yet the most in­ter­est­ing, read­ers and fol­low­ers of this col­umn have le­git­i­mate ex­pec­ta­tion to ac­cess its view on th­ese other is­sues.

It is a common knowl­edge that this col­umn and its sis­ter col­umn in the sis­ter news­pa­per has opined strongly on how the con­flict within the coali­tion could be al­ter­na­tively ad­dressed but among force, right­eous and in­ter­est based ap­proaches, po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship chose the first one. It would also be a wise re­minder that what has not worked and there should be blamed for the col­lapsed coali­tion is not the sys­tem but the ac­tors.

Be­fore it col­lapsed, the coali­tion has been op­er­at­ing so what brought things to the end, is mainly fail­ure of the ac­tors and may be stake­hold­ers to some ex­tent to han­dle the chal­lenges ma­turely, pa­tiently and in a more civilised po­lit­i­cal style. Lack of so­phis­ti­ca­tion in hold­ing coali­tion to­gether ben­e­fited gra­ciously from the blind fol­low­ing that Mem­bers of par­lia­ment has shown to their lead­ers. The po­tency that Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment are demon­strat­ing now is one needed when civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions were call­ing for the al­ter­na­tive ap­proach to the is­sues, a trend they clearly said will not help the coun­try. When Maseru Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Dec­la­ra­tion was passed, MPs could still not see en­gag­ing is­sues con­struc­tively to hold lead­ers ac­count­able as pri­or­ity, may be they still thought it would be a business as usual and re­nege against com­mit­ment once po­lit­i­cal dust and ten­sion sub­side. When the is­sues high­lighted above are raised at this eleventh hour of the life of the 8th par­lia­ment, those who en­gage in them should ap­pre­ci­ate this back­ground.

As­sum­ing that the mo­tion of ad­journ­ment is re­jected or gov­ern­ment is put at the cor­ner and black­mailed by the MPs to con­cede to the de­mands that gov­ern­ment pays off the loans that MPs le­git­i­mately ex­pected to ser­vice in five years, should gov­ern­ment give in? If fi­nally the mo­tion is not passed, will that im­pact on the next elec­tions?

Whether gov­ern­ment should give in or not may not be the in­ter­est of this ar­ti­cle ex­cept to say that serv­ing one’s na­tion as a politi­cian is a com­mit­ment that can be as highly re­ward­ing as how risky it can be. Once, politi­cians seek to use their power to re­duce the risk while on the other hand great big op­por­tu­ni­ties and fat ben­e­fits they risk be­ing la­belled greedy, un­prin­ci­pled and may be cor­rupt.

There are about four ways through which par­lia­ment closes and it is very crit­i­cal for those who want to en­gage in this de­bate to ap­pre­ci­ate. Par­lia­ment closes it business for main breaks and this is nor­mally win­ter break and fes­tive sea­son re­cess and the time to re­sume is not stip­u­lated. It can also go for short break to at­tend to cer­tain spe­cific mat­ters such as at­tend­ing work- shops, par­tic­i­pat­ing in the com­mem­o­ra­tion of World AIDS Day or cel­e­brat­ing In­de­pen­dence Day with His Majesty and the peo­ple in en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties but here the spe­cific time for its ad­journ­ment is spec­i­fied.

For th­ese two forms of break, the Lead­ers of the House or a mem­ber of cab­i­net on his or her be­half moves a mo­tion on ad­journ­ment. Since the ques­tion is put to de­ter­mine the fate of the mo­tion, it can ei­ther be passed or neg­a­tive by the house. There are other two ways through which work of par­lia­ment can be stopped, pro­ro­ga­tion and dis­so­lu­tion.

Th­ese ways are not sub­ject to par­lia­men­tary de­bate as there is no mo­tion needed for them. It is the func­tion of the King act­ing on the ad­vice of the Prime Min­is­ter and or the Coun­cil of State.

In the case of pro­ro­ga­tion, the Prime Min­is­ter ad­vices the King di­rectly and there is no op­tion for al­ter­na­tive ad­vice as it could be with ad­vi­sory on dis­so­lu­tion that comes as a re­sult of the Premier’s lose on the vote of con­fi­dence.

In the cir­cum­stances that Prime Min­is­ter chooses to ad­vice the King to dis­solve par­lia­ment in­stead of re­sign­ing after los­ing con­fi­dence of par­lia­ment, the King may refuse if in His view Le­sotho can still be ef­fec­tively gov­erned with­out dis­so­lu­tion and such dis­so­lu­tion is not in the in­ter­est of Le­sotho.

How­ever, the King can only do that act­ing on the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of State.

In the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion mo­tion of ad­journ­ment sine die is rather a rit­ual that has to come first to be fol­lowed by the dis­so­lu­tion. Although this is a prac­tice, there is no con­sti­tu­tional relation be­tween ad­journ­ment in sine die and dis­so­lu­tion, the King can at any time pro­rogue or dis­solve as long as He is so ad­vised.

This means that whether par­lia­ment passes or re­jects the mo­tion on ad­journ­ment, it does not mat­ter but they will go home and back to the elec­tors once it is dis­solved.

For those who still ex­pect to come back, it may be ap­pear rude to the elec­tors to refuse to go on claims that gov­ern­ment has to pay for their loans.

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