THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB REVISITED
With the seemingly obdurate position taken by the Parliamentary Opposition in relation to the election of a Deputy Speaker, the government is in a predicament which it could have avoided, and which was unnecessary. With its 11-6 majority in the House, would it have vitiated its executive and legislative potency and possibilities as a government if it had elected one of its members as Deputy Speaker? The answer is a categorical no.
For the government to keep on lacerating itself with the point that “the House shall elect” is, from a certain perspective, masochistic and agrumentatively specious. What is the purpose of the House? My answer is: to initiate, define and execute government business which, essentially, is the people’s business. And in the House there are the two sides, contextually speaking, who play their various roles—or assume their various thespian postures—in the drama or sometimes tragedy of governance.
The House elects, but who is the leader of government business in the House? Is it the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition? The process in the House is not a free for all. There are particular responsibilities that devolve upon the Prime MInister as the leader of government business and upon the Leader of the Opposition as only Leader of the Opposition. And so in relation to the election of the Deputy Speaker there is a logical, pragmatic, bureaucratic and executive reason for the Prime Minister to initiate the mundane process of electing a Deputy Speaker.
I am aware of the Speaker’s role. The position of Leader of Government Business is particularized, personalized and reposes in the Prime Minister, not in the general body of the majority. And so, the people of this country must look to the Prime MInister to resolve this ongoing issue as the buck, as we have heard ad nauseum, stops at his desk.
If he assumes that responsibility, as he should, he cannot set about the process of electing a Deputy Speaker according to his whims and fancies. He cannot further lacerate himself on his convenient interpretation of the term “as soon as convenient”. Section 36 (1) of our Constitution reads in part: “. . . the House shall as soon as convenient elect another member of the House . . . “The “convenience” alluded to cannot be contrived, spurious, factitious and opportunistic. It has to be grounded in the natural order of things and has a certain immanent legitimacy and validity.
When the Opposition states that it cannot provide a member for the position of Deputy Speaker, as this would decrease and weaken its voting power in the House, that reason falls within this latter category, and is in conformity with the honorable tradition in this Honorable House; hence its perenniality, universality and longevity. As I see it, the Opposition has a choice and it is a choice that would subvert its voting potency. What if there is a rebellion within the ranks of the majority? That “one” vote of the Opposition could determine who will be the next Prime Minister.
“Convenience” on the Government side circumscribes what? It circumscribes a decision that could be seen as remarkable. It is a decision that clothes its elected members in ministerial garb, thus creating a sartorial debacle. Nudity in terms of “one” must be the order of the day; and is the solution.
According to information transmitted, the Speaker at the last sitting of the House (16/8/16) stated that at the next or subsequent meeting of the House she wants her Deputy Speaker present. If that is indeed the case who will be the “Sacrificial Lamb”?
With the obduracy of the Opposition on one hand and the convenience of the government we have what may be termed as the theatre of the absurd. The author is a former justice minister and magistrate.
Will Speaker Leone John have her wish come the next sitting of the House?