Omnibus Bill continues to divide political leaders

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – The recommendation by civil society groups and development partners for the recall of parliament to conclude outstanding work on the 11th Amendments to the Constitutional has left political leaders divided. Parliament was officially dissolved by King Letsie III on July 14, without finalising the amendments contained in the bill popularly, referred to as the Omnibus Bill.

As per section 84 (1) of the Constitution, if after a dissolution of parliament and before the holding of general elections of members of the national assembly the King is advised by the council of state that, owing to a state of war or a state of emergency in Lesotho, it is necessary to recall parliament, the King shall recall the parliament for the time being and the members of the dissolved parliament shall be deemed to be the members of the recalled parliament, but the general election of members of the National Assembly shall proceed and the recalled parliament shall, if not sooner dissolved, stand dissolved on the day immediately preceding the day fixed for such general election or if more than one such day.

Minister of Justice and Law, Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, says it is a wise move and is of importance that the National Assembly, the Senate and political leaders compromise their time and work on the outstanding amendments so that the Omnibus Bill is passed by the current government. He said failure to do so will leave the country at the mercy of the new government to finish up reforms as there will not be a body established to oversee continuation of the reforms and implementation of the Omnibus Bill, as a result, could drag on for years.

On the other hand, leader of opposition and leader of Alliance for Democrats (AD), Monyane Moleleki, says there is no need to rush the Omnibus Bill as it can be passed by the new government that will be elected into power. He said a state of emergency is the only thing that prescribes recalling of a dissolved parliament and currently there is no emergency the country is facing but a predicament. These they said during a meeting organised by the government in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organisations which brought together political leaders, the Senate and National Assembly representatives to discuss and come to an agreement to recall parliament and complete the Omnibus Bill.

Rakuoane said the country is facing a predicament which can culminate in an emergency if not attended to immediately. He said despite the few political leaders that came to the meeting they hope to talk and see if they agree to recall parliament and pass the outstanding Omnibus Bill or decide to pass amendments that have been completed and pass the outstanding ones to the coming government.

“Let us find a way of doing something about the reforms, let us try to finish the business. We are in an unusual situation trying to do things that are unthinkable and some undoable. But given the circumstance where we are we can sacrifice and do what we can. “I appeal that we find each other and for the sake of the country, see if the proposed amendments, no matter how imperfect, if we are willing to look at them and compromise on some areas then let us find that compromise; it is a must that we find it.

“Let us also find whether with this predicament we can accept that we are in a state of distress or emergency and can justify for recalling of the parliament,” he said. He, however, said it is also possible to leave the Omnibus Bill to the next Parliament but possible consequences of not finalizing the bill will be worse. The Omnibus Bill, he said, among others proposes for establishment of a body which will oversee its implementation by enacting policies that will operationalise the 11th amendments.

He said if the country leaves the Omnibus Bill incomplete, after elections there will be neither a National Reforms Authority nor a body overseeing implementation of the amendments to the constitution and ultimately everyone will be at the mercy of the new government and parliament. “Let us try to finish what we have already started because if leave it undone we will be at the mercy of new government and parliament,” he said.

Moleleki warned on recalling of parliament in order to finish up the Omnibus Bill. He said rushing into completing the Bill within a short time might see the country making mistakes that it might regret later. He advised that the process be approached with caution and patience for the benefit of the country. Moleleki said the predicament that the country is facing does not qualify for recalling of parliament as it is not an emergency and can be addressed at a later stage.

“Reforms are a process that cannot be passed or hurried therefore it should be handled carefully with patience and done cautiously even if done with outmost speed in order to do the right thing in such a way that the country does not fall in the same pitfalls it did 56 years ago. “I am not quite convinced that we have to pass the Omnibus Bill now, it could be done by the new government to be elected. There is no any real hurry, one wonders what the hurry is all about, as long as the commitment is there, maybe we should not hurry and force things in to just a few days.

“Let us move deliberately, cautiously and do the right thing so that we do not fall in the same pitfall that we have fallen into in the last 56 years of independence,’’ he said. He further noted that while political leaders are sacrificing their time to finish up the bill, powerful newcomers on the political scene are campaigning.

“I urge you to do the undoable and unthinkable and agree by consensus to the events of recalling the dissolved parliament and do it with a smile pretending that we are happy because there is no state of emergency which is the only situation which prescribes recalling of a dissolved parliament. Because legally, that is undoable already.

“We are in the middle of campaigning season but being encouraged by the EU and US to sacrifice and do things that are undoable. I want to urge you political leaders to sacrifice your campaign time while strong newcomers in the political sphere are campaigning,” he noted.

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