Our parliament members, at least some of them, appear to be in a recalcitrant mood lately.
The recent decision of the House Committee members to dissolve the committee on alleged grievances against the National Assembly Speaker and the Secretary General is amateurish and condemnable.
For such an act of defiance by lawmakers merits a better understanding into the situation that unfolded when the house committee members, who are responsible, among others for the welfare of the parliament members met recently to discuss their alleged grievances. Their decision begs the question of professionalism and code of conduct because our people’s representatives have violated the laws they legislated.
Article 10.11 of the Constitution empowers each house of the Parliament to make rules for regulating its procedure and conducting its business. Section 309 of the Rules of Procedure (RoP) of the National Assembly allows the House to establish parliamentary committees and Section 321 of the RoP mandates the members to be elected by the House.
Since the establishment of the house committee is under the rules, which is framed based on the principles enshrined in the Constitution, the decision to dissolve the committee has to be of the house and not of the members. Sections 354 and 317 of the RoP state that the committee appointed by the House has to be valid and functioning during the duration of the Parliament. This means, the committee dissolves when the house dissolves. The dissolution decision suggests that the house committee functions almost like a parallel National Assembly.
Such utter disregard for the laws and rules by the house committee, which comprise of chairpersons of other committees in the country’s highest decision-making body, is deplorable. Lawmakers breaking laws malign the institution and bring national shame. It questions the credibility and integrity of our parliament members who are elected and empowered by the people to legislate.
It is understandable that a young democracy is confronted with many challenges. It is understandable that we may err in our endeavour to improve. But, it is in times of such situations that we are often tested and we expect our lawmakers to articulate their grievances, if any, lawfully. Disrespecting laws and the institution that embodies democracy loses the very essence of calling ourselves elected representatives of the people. Our parliamentarians must comprehend that being young does not mean being immature.
Although the act of dissolution may be perceived as unlawful, there is still a need for the Speaker and the Secretary General to look into the alleged administrative issues that bother our parliament members. The issue of office space, refreshments and foreign trips among others must be discussed professionally. While at it, the conduct of our parliament members with bureaucrats in the secretariat, be it the Secretary General or research officers, must be assessed.
It is hoped that such differences are addressed at the soonest because it concerns an institution where democracy happens and hopefully thrives. Last month, the Prime Minister had asked the nation if we are ideal citizens in his state of the nation address. We now ask if our parliament members are ideal representatives of the people?