Parly drama as op­po­si­tion walk out on bill

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli and Bereng Mpaki

THE gov­ern­ment yes­ter­day pre­sented the Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion Bill 2018 that is aimed at es­tab­lish­ing a com­mis­sion to spear­head na­tional di­a­logue to­wards the im­ple­men­ta­tion of mul­ti­sec­tor re­forms, amid strong protests by op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors who even­tu­ally walked out to protest what were they said was gov­ern­ment ar­bi­trari­ness and lack of con­sul­ta­tion on the bill.

The bill seeks to pro­vide for the es­tab­lish­ment of the Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion whose man­date is to fa­cil­i­tate a na­tional di­a­logue on the con­sti­tu­tion and other re­lated is­sues with the pur­pose of en­sur­ing in­te­grated con­sti­tu­tional, par­lia­men­tary, ju­di­cial, se­cu­rity and pub­lic ser­vice re­forms.

The en­vis­aged com­mis­sion, which shall be com­posed of six com­mis­sion­ers and led by a chair­per­son who shall be a re­tired judge or em­i­nent per­son, will op­er­ate for an ini­tial pe­riod of 18 months and this can be ex­tended for an­other 12 months to en­able it to com­plete its man­date.

Among other things, the func­tions of the com­mis­sion are to “ex­am­ine the con­sis­tence and com­pat­i­bil­ity of the pro­vi­sions of the (na­tional) con­sti­tu­tion in re­la­tion to democ­racy, rule of law, good gov­er­nance, na­tional de­fence and se­cu­rity, par­lia­men­tary and po­lit­i­cal sys­tems.

“It shall col­lect and an­a­lyse in­for­ma­tion rel­e­vant for con­sti­tu­tional, par­lia­men­tary, ju­di­cial ser­vice, pub­lic ser­vice and de­fence and se­cu­rity re­forms from any mem­ber of the pub­lic, re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, youth or women’s as­so­ci­a­tions or groups or any other group that the com­mis­sion may con­sider for pur­poses of con­sti­tu­tional re­forms.”

The com­mis­sion will also “re­view and pre­pare a draft bill to the con­sti­tu­tion and any leg­is­la­tion as well as pre­pare and sub­mit a re­port on its find­ings to the Prime Min­is­ter”.

Law, Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs and Hu­man Rights Min­is­ter, Le­bo­hang Hlaele, pre­sented the bill which was im­me­di­ately op­posed by op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors who ac­cused gov­ern­ment of ar­bi­trari­ness for sus­pend­ing the Stand­ing Or­der 51 (5) which would have en­abled the bill to be scru­ti­nised be­fore­hand by par­lia­men­tar­i­ans.

Pop­u­lar Front for Democ­racy (PFD) leader, Ad­vo­cate Lekhetho ho Rakuoane, stood on a point of or­der say­ing g the bill was against the pledge signed by the e ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties on the eve of the 3 June, une, 2017 snap elec­tions in which they pledged ed to up­hold an all-in­clu­sive and par­tic­i­pa­tory atory re­forms process.

Ad­vo­cate Rakuoane ne ar­gued that if the gov­ern­ment pro­ceeded ded to present the bill, then it would be un­der­min­ing der­min­ing the civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions that hat were also sig­na­tory to the re­forms pledge ge signed in April 2017. He said their in­put had not been con­sid­ered in draft­ing the bill.

Tha­bana Morena con­stituency leg­is­la­tor, Se­libe Mo­choboroane, roane, also stood on a point of or­der, say­ing ing the bill was be­ing rail­roaded through ugh par­lia­ment in vi­o­la­tion of the re­forms eforms pledge which had in­di­cated that re­form process should be­gin egin with the na­tional di­a­logue ue which would pro­duce the road oad map and agenda for re­forms. ms.

“The gov­ern­ment t should have be­gun by the first step of the Na­tional di­a­logue ia­logue that will pave the way for the re­form process s and the road map,” Mr Mo­choboroane ar­gued.

“The re­forms should be for the good of our peo­ple and not for the gov­ern­ment and they shall be in­formed by the Na­tional Di­a­logue. We can’t al­low the tabling of the bill to com- - mence as this will be start­ing on the wrong g foot­ing.”

Shortly after­wards, ds, par­lia­ment was sus­pended as the Speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly, Sephiri Motanyane, said he was not aware of the re­forms pledge which was signed by the po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

“I was not aware of the pledge. It is the first time that I am hear­ing of it, but what I know for sure is that these re­forms should be Ba­sotho’s re­forms. It is there­fore in­cum- bent for me to sus­pend this House and con­vene a meet­ing with gov­ern­ment.”

When pro­ceed­ings re­sumed al­most 30 min­utes later, Mr Motanyane ruled that there was noth­ing wrong with the pre­sen­ta­tion of the bill as it was pro­ce­dural as all mem­bers had a chance to learn about it.

It was at then that the op­po­si­tion walked out of par­lia­ment in protest leav­ing Hloahlo­eng con­stituency leg­is­la­tor, Ntl­hoi Mot­samai (of the Demo­cratic Congress), who ar­gued that gov­ern­ment ac­tion was “un­ac­cept­able”.

“We need po­lit­i­cal ac­com­mo­da­tion and this process should be in­clu­sive and have multi-level stake­hold­ers which is not the case as of now,” she said.

The walk out was fol­lowed by a press con­fer­ence where the op­po­si­tion an­nounced that it would boy­cott the re­forms process as long the Na­tional Di­a­logue was not held.

“We are not go­ing to be part of this process so long as it is not in­formed by the Na­tional Di­a­logue which shall be in­clu­sive and ben­e­fit the whole na­tion,” DC leader and for­mer Prime Min­is­ter, Pakalitha Mo­sisili, said.

“The Na­tional Di­a­logue shall in­form a need for a com­mis­sion and what the bill shall be called and all other pro­cesses. The setup of a com­mis­sion has to be the sub­ject of agree­ment at the Na­tional Di­a­logue.”

The op­po­si­tion stance was sup­ported by civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions who ex­pressed their ob­jec­tions in a let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter, Thomas Thabane.

In its let­ter yes­ter­day, the Le­sotho Coun­cil of Non-governmental Or­gan­i­sa­tions (LCN) stated that “civil so­ci­ety learns with dis­may that the gov­ern­ment is in­tend­ing to ta­ble a bill aimed at cre­at­ing a com­mis­sion to carry out re­forms and that tabling would be fol­lowed by sus­pen­sion of Stand­ing Or­der 51 (5) to en­able the Bill to be dis­cussed with­out be­ing re­ferred to the (par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio) com­mit­tee.”

The LCN fur­ther pro­posed that if the gov­ern­ment was in­deed com­mit­ted to the re­forms process, it should “promptly halt the leg­isla­tive process and de­fer the bill un­til such time that stake­hold­ers’ in­puts on the gov­ern­ment roadmap would have been re­ceived and multi-stake­holder con­fer­ence con­vened”.

Law, Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs and Hu­man Rights Min­is­ter, Le­bo­hang Hlaele.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.