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We support new Standing Orders – they are progressive

Publishing Date : 22 August, 2017

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The recently drafted Standing Orders are a step in the right direction if our parliament is to be independent and exercise oversight over the overly burly executive. There have been concerns from since time memorial that our parliament lacks the strength to execute its mandate properly.

Although the proposed amendments do not wholly address the issue of the independence of parliament, it serves as assurance that we are empowering our legislators. Ours is a parliamentary republic where the executive derives its legitimacy from parliament and it should be accountable to parliament. This is what makes our parliament supreme.  

There is nothing sinister about having president to come before parliament to account for government actions. Our constitution envisages that, parliament should at all time have the confidence in the sitting president therefore having to inspire confidence to those who indirectly elected him. He therefore should account to people who elected him to be head of government. Of course some may ask uncomfortable questions but we are an open democracy and transparency remains a very important component of good governance.

Although it would have been ideal to have to have the sitting president appearing the before parliament to field questions, it is commendable that Vice President would do that duty on every Thursdays when parliament sessions are on. There is a need to convince Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs that it is in the interest   of the nation that parliament remains independent and they should work towards achieving that. This is given their decision to suspend adoption of the amended Standing Orders on the eleventh hour.

The new provision which introduced the Committee on Government Assurances is welcome, particularly given that the executive has shown repeatedly that it has little regard for motions adopted by parliament under the pretext that motions are not binding. The executive has the tendency to make promises on the floor of parliament, and later ignore it. We learn that the committee will monitor such and ensure that every commitment is fulfilled.

It is also commendable that the proposed amendments would have allowed many MPs to participate in the tabling of motions. In the past, the first come first serve policy only restricted parliament to debate the motion of only one MP because they followed one another in the notice. The new amendment would only allow an MP two motions per sitting except in an event that there are no more other motions.

It is however worrisome that failure by Parliament to adopt the amendments this week has created uncertainty on whether the proposed amendments will ever be tabled. Ruling party MPs have raised concern on the Standing Order 60.4 which deprived the speaker the power to take action against MPs without consulting whips first. The provision is one the reason parliament had to adjourn and postpone adoption of the provision to the November meeting. 



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