Amnesty for tax de­fault­ers

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

LAST week, the op­po­si­tion walked out of par­lia­ment to protest the tabling of the Na­tional Re­forms Com­mis­sion Bill by the gov­ern­ment.

The bill is aimed at es­tab­lish­ing a com­mis­sion to spear­head na­tional di­a­logue towards the im­ple­men­ta­tion of multi-sec­tor re­forms in line with SADC rec­om­men­da­tions.

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.

The op­po­si­tion walked out of par­lia­ment after they un­suc­cess­fully tried to block the in­tro­duc­tion of the bill. Fol­low­ing the walk out, Le­sotho

Times (LT) Re­porter, ’Marafaele Mohloboli, this week spoke to the Chair­per­son of the Law and Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee, Lekhetho Mos­ito to find out what will hap­pen to the bill and the en­vis­aged re­forms process.

LT: The op­po­si­tion bloc walked out of par­lia­ment when the Min­is­ter of Law and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs, Lebohang Hlaele, tabled the Re­forms Com­mis­sion Bill. Do you think that they were right to have re­acted the way they did?

LM: They walked out pre­ma­turely. They should have waited to see what the next step would have been fol­low­ing their meet­ing with the Speaker of the Na­tional Assem­bly. And be­sides, there is no way we could have dealt with their mis­giv­ings be­fore the bill had been pre­sented.

LT: We have noted that after the Bill was pre­sented, gov­ern­ment called for sub­mis­sions from var­i­ous stake­hold­ers and will also be hold­ing some con­sul­ta­tive meet­ings. What made the gov­ern­ment adopt this stance?

LM: It’s not that the gov­ern­ment has de­vi­ated from its orig­i­nal plan. It was al­ways im­por­tant to first present the bill as it would defy all logic to start by call­ing for sub­mis­sions on a bill that no one knew about.

LT: What is the main task of the Law and Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee?

LM: Now that Par­lia­ment has del­e­gated the bill to us, we will go out to the peo­ple to gather their views and opin­ions so that we can go get a con­sen­sus which will in­form the bill as this is an ini­tia­tive that needs a multi-stake­holder in­put.

LT: When the bill was tabled, it was sug­gested that par­lia­ment would sus­pend Stand­ing Or­der #51 which would have en­abled the bill to be scru­ti­nised be­fore­hand by par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. Has the sug­ges­tion been im­ple­mented?

LM: No it has not been im­ple­mented. Par­lia­ment is still do­ing its busi­ness. No stand­ing or­der has been sus­pended and ev­ery­thing is pro­ceed­ing nor­mally in par­lia­ment.

LT: The op­po­si­tion bloc and the CSOS strongly feel that a na­tional di­a­logue should have pre­ceded the craft­ing of the bill to en­able it to in­cor­po­rate the views of all stake­hold­ers. What are your views on this?

LM: There is still go­ing to be a Na­tional Di­a­logue and all stake­hold­ers shall have pro­vide their in­put.

LT: Are you now call­ing for the Na­tional Di­a­logue be­cause you ad­mit that the gov­ern­ment bun­gled the Re­forms Com­mis­sion Bill?

LM: No. The only rea­son we are call­ing for the Na­tional Di­a­logue is be­cause it ought to be done. Only when the bill has been tabled and when its con­tents are known to the peo­ple can we have the Na­tional Di­a­logue. The call for the di­a­logue does not mean that the gov­ern­ment erred in any way or has bowed down to pres­sure.

LT: Is the par­lia­ment ready and well-re­sourced to take up the is­sue of the re­forms bill? When is the Bill likely to be passed?

LM: We are very much ready and Par­lia­ment will pro­vide the nec­es­sary re­sources to cater for all pro­cesses. A bill is nor­mally given 30 days for com­ple­tion from the date of its tabling. Hence the call for sub­mis­sions be­fore it can be passed to the Se­nate.

Hope­fully the Bill shall be passed by end of March this year as I have heard that the Na­tional Di­a­logue could be held towards the very end of Fe­bru­ary.

LT: Are you open to scru­tiny as the com­mit­tee deal­ing with the bill?

LM: Since we want these re­forms to be owned by all Ba­sotho, we are go­ing to be very open to scru­tiny. Ev­ery­one should own the re­forms process hence the call for sub­mis­sions.

LT: Is the op­po­si­tion ready to be part of this bill and the sub­se­quent re­forms?

LM: The op­po­si­tion is al­ways mak­ing de­mands and shift­ing the goal posts. They are try­ing to buy time and mak­ing all sorts of de­mands try­ing to de­rail the whole re­forms process.

They want us to fail like they did and we have noth­ing to lose while they have ev­ery­thing to lose if they choose to not take part. We are how­ever, go­ing to go ahead with or with­out them.

LT: What are you go­ing to do to en­sure that the op­po­si­tion is on board the re­forms?

LM: We prom­ise to make the Re­forms Com­mis­sion Bill very in­clu­sive just like the very re­forms process.

We are go­ing to en­gage all stake­hold­ers and use their in­puts and that’s a prom­ise we in­tend to keep. We prom­ise that the bill shall not be passed with­out con­sid­er­ing the given sub­mis­sions.

This is an is­sue of trust and we don’t blame them if they don’t trust our op­er­a­tions. It is only be­cause they never dealt well with us so they sus­pect that we could avenge.

Law and Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee Chair­per­son Lekhetho Mos­ito.

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