MEMBERS of Parliament (MPs) should not be curtailed by police from interacting with their constituents on the basis of not notifying them as required under the Public Order Act, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini has said.
Dr Matibini who made the ruling yesterday in Parliament said MPs enjoyed the privilege to carry out functions of their office including having meetings even minus notifying the police seven days before as provided for under the Public Order Act.
He made the ruling in response to a point of order made on June 18, 2015 by Mwinilunga member of Parliament Steven Katuka who alleged that police blocked him from holding a meeting in his constituency on account that he had not given them a seven days’ notice.
Mr Katuka in his point of order said the Republican President Edgar Lungu had directed MPs a few weeks ago to go out to their constituencies to educate people on the ongoing National Registration Card issuance exercise.
He then sought a ruling from the Speaker on whether the Ministry of Home affairs was in order to prevent him from meeting the people in his constituency to educate them on the NRCs.
In his ruling, the Speaker said that the Republican guaranteed every citizen the right to peaceful assembly.
He said with regard to MPs holding meetings in their constituencies aimed at addressing governance issues, Government had made its position clear through a Ministerial statement made by then Home Affairs Minister (Edgar Lungu) on 17th July 2013.
Dr Matibini said the Minister in that statement clearly stated that MPs were free to go to their constituencies at any time they so wished to carry out functions of their office which included having meetings without notifying the police in advance.
He said Members of Parliament were only supposed to notify police as a pre-cautionary measure and not as a precondition.
The Speaker further said the police were aware of this privilege accorded to MPs because the circular was copied to the Inspector General of police.
“Honorable members based on the Ministerial statement, it is clear that MPs are free to go to their constituencies anytime they so wish to carry out functions of their office which includes having meetings with constituents and this does not require them to give the seven days’ notice to the police as provided for under the Public Order Act,” he said.
He then said if the incident as alleged by Mr Katuka did occur then the police were in breach of the privilege accorded to MPs and appealed to the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop anything of that nature to re-occur.