The just concluded AU meeting has dropped a bombshell at the door steps of the West and we may not wait for too long to get its repercussive vibes. The AU has said it will not cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for Sudan’s strong man Al basher. The African leaders feel the issue is one of the West’s interference into the affairs of African States. Indeed it is a hard decision to make…a hard stance to take considering the efforts to stamp out impunity for leaders whose preoccupation is to suppress their own people and stack their country’s wealth into foreign banks, leaving a nasty trail of impoverishment back home. This is confusing at a time in West Africa when the RUF and their AFRC have faced trials together with the pro-government CDF antagonists. Where does this leave Charles Taylor’s trial? We even hear that scores of people are ready to be his witnesses at The Hague.
This brings me to the decision making challenges that we have in our lives. When the options are all positive then it is easier, but when the options are all negative then you have it hitting. It is like the rebels asking a bloody civilian to choose the long sleeve or the short sleeve meaning whether you should be amputated at the wrist or at the elbow! Never mind worst untold stories abound. What I am saying is that decision making needs a lot of thinking and skills. This is why I want to place our Parliament into focus. Many constituents complain about their MP doing this and that and not doing this and that… but do they fully understand what it means to be an MP? Just because you have an MP does that make you complacent and expect him or her to do the impossible? Parliament and MPs… So what?
Democracy and good governance is also about the acquisition of knowledge.
With the changing nature of governance occasioned by the observance of the Rule of Law, Human Rights and related concepts that seek to enhance the dignity of the human being and the rest of the members of biodiversity.
If you are constantly troubled by the same thing all of the time don’t look far off… as they say look under you foot. In Sierra Leone we practice partisan politics meaning you have to have a party of your choice whether overtly or covertly. The only option is being an independent candidate if you are entering a political race for Parliament. Now those going under parties, how are they selected? You have the so-called Electoral Colleges (I don’t know why they call it college) that are at most times made up of male party elders who may never have bothered about democracy. The process of identifying them is anything but democratic. Most of their qualification is by raw traditional experience and loyalty or fanaticism
For the last elections some parties tried a bit to give symbols to fitting candidates but that did not curb the growing disgruntlement among especially youth and women who are traditionally marginalized.
Once people get into Parliament, too many expectations are built around them and therefore it is good to know exactly what their statutory role is as MPs. Many citizens do not have the necessary skills to adequately utilize political institutions and processes. Do people actually know what it means to be an MP?
In the first place the Sierra Leone Parliament exists as established by the Constitution. Parliament comprises the President, Speaker and Members of Parliament. MPs comprise one Paramount Chief Representative from each District and other members elected according to the Constitution. The MPs have to be Sierra Leone
Citizen, who has attained the age of 21 years, registered for elections and speaks and reads the English Language.
Parliament’s main responsibility is to make laws, decides on the amount of taxes people should pay and decides how money raised by taxes should be spent on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone. Parliament is also supposed to oversee the work of the President, Ministers and Civil Servants.
If government wants to enact it gets the people’s consent through Parliament. I think the sore point is that the representative nature of Parliament is often overlooked and Bills become Laws that affect people’s lives for generations to come. The question is at which stage should the MP take the Bill to his or her constituents? Many a time the people’s input into the laws are overlooked. In most cases it is the Civil Society that seeks the interest of the people and point out some of the inadequacies of a particular draft Bill.
The Taxation role of Parliament does not come through quite often as the people are not made to fully understand it. No body collects taxes without the authority of Parliament. Parliament gives power to government institutions, or Local Government bodies to collect taxes. When parties campaign the electorate decides between parties depending on whether their manifestoes fit your priority needs.
Parliament also has the important oversight role. It oversees various Government operations. As the people’s representatives sees to it that government ministries and departments perform their duties consistent with law and established procedures and are accountable for all funds under their control.
Parliamentary privileges and immunities are accorded MPs. MPs are protected against actions for libel based on comments made during Parliamentary proceedings. MPs cannot also be given any letter to attend court whilst on the way to Parliament. A Member of Parliament cannot be forced to serve as witness in court. Parliamentary privilege also includes freedom from arrest within the precincts of the House.
Now we need to know how the interaction with our MPs should be. MPs make laws in our interest. The MP representing your area would like to have your views on laws proposed in Parliament. Let your MP know your views on bills that are before Parliament. You may call or phone or visit the MP. You may even write a letter to the MP. So as you can see you do not sit and wait for your MP to visit you before you raise issues or wait to vote him or her out. For some MPs due to the nature of their constituencies it could be very difficult to pay frequent visits. You can contribute a lot without actually having the MP with you in the constituency.
For their part, MPs should endeavor to be in constant touch with your constituents to keep them au fait with current issues especially those which impinge on their livelihoods. Remember life is give and take. At election people should not just vote parties in but they should actually scrutinize their representatives. Note that you can never employ a dog as a butcher except it gives up its desire for meat.
By S. Beny SAM