Parliament and standards

That Parliament has disbanded the select committee before which five opposition members of Parliament were expected to appear yesterday does not only make interesting reading but also raises questions about why the legislature departed from its set norms.

Those who have followed Parliamentary business were no doubt intrigued when they heard that a select committee had been constituted to hear matters pertaining to the five legislators.

This is a contentious issue that has pitted the ruling Patriotic Front against the opposition parties. The sensitivity of the subject should not have been lost in those attempting to impose discipline on the strong matter of conscience.

The five parliamentarians were supposed to appear before a select committee to answer charges of participating in protests in which opposition members were demanding the release of the final draft constitution on the floor of the National Assembly.

While we understand that Parliament has the right to make its own rules, we wonder whether the decision to come up with a select committee to overstep an already existing committee is one of them.

This is because alleged misconduct of members of Parliament is normally dealt with by the Parliamentary committee on privileges, Absences and Support Services.

This committee among many others is normally constituted by the Speaker of the National Assembly when a new session of Parliament is called.

Its establishment is never in secret as the Speaker, in this case, Dr Patrick Matibini would take time to announce to the whole House its composition.

We are left wondering why officials at Parliament wanted UPND Mazabuka Central Member of Parliament Garry Nkombo along with Monze Central MP Jack Mwiimbu, MMD’s Mwandi MP Michael Kaingu, his counterparts for Mafinga, Catherine Namugala and Vincent Mwale of Chipangali to appear before the Parliamentary select committee.

We also share concerns that members of the appropriate committee were sidelined.

We can only suspect that the constitution of the select committee was a conscious decision which was aimed at achieving a particular purpose.

If this were not the case, surely parliamentary officials should have advised whoever was pulling the strings to allow the appropriate committee, which is the Privileges, Absences and Support Services, to do its work.

Obviously, the drama which Parliament has involved itself in is not good for our democracy and the students of parliamentary business.

It is no use to try and escape such blunder through the use of an excuse of ‘technical reason’ when the real reason is evident for all to see.

What officials at Parliament should know is that Zambians have become so observant and that any attempt to hoodwink them is easily noticed.

We hope those charged with administrative procedures at Parliament will not play in the hands of politicians to water down the vibrancy of the National Assembly.

Parliament is such an important institution of democracy that should not be used by selfish individuals to settle political scores.