Landless People’s Movement (LPM) parliamentarians yesterday claimed provocation by Swapo members in the National Assembly, asserting that ruling party MPs were allowed to call opposition leaders derogatory names without any injunction from the presiding officer.
The LPM leadership, through their lawyers AngulaCo.Incorporated, wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi, over what they termed unfair parliamentary rules being enforced by Katjavivi against opposition MPs. The party currently has four seats in the National Assembly.
Their letter follows hot on the heels of Wednesday’s verbal warning dished out to Bernadus Swartbooi and his deputy Henny Seibeb over their “unbecoming” conduct in the august House during a commotion that erupted in parliament on Tuesday afternoon, after Swartbooi labelled Founding President Sam Nujoma a thug and liar. “Our client is aggrieved by the application of the rules of parliament as enforced by you as speaker; despite numerous transgressions of rules and constant provocation against our client by members of the ruling party, you have selectively applied the rules against our client unfairly and unjustly,” reads the letter addressed to Katjavivi by LPM’s lawyers. While acknowledging that the LPM MPs are not always above board, they said it was equally not parliamentary that they are suppressed, threatened and treated unfairly. “Powers and Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act was promulgated in order to provide for expression of the right of freedom of speech and debate in parliament.” According to the party, freedom of speech in the assembly is a critical guarantee.
“A threat that a member of the assembly may be suspended for something said in the assembly inhibits freedom of expression in the assembly and therefore adversely impacts on that guarantee.”
According to the aggrieved LPM, the standing rules and orders are merely to control the assembly’s internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures, but must still have due regard to representative and participatory democracy. “We are instructing to demand, as we hereby do, that the Speaker addresses the grievances urgently and failing which might be forced to approach the High Court for determination,” the LPM leaders noted. Katjavivi handed out a warning to LPM leaders on Wednesday, saying he would not tolerate unruly behaviour from any MP of the august House. “Me, naming members does not mean that I am talking to them only; there are a few members that are sitting here making themselves guilty of this un-parliamentary conduct,” he added.
He said when members were sworn in, they subscribed to a code of conduct to which they must adhere.
“I will report this behaviour to the Committee on Privileges as soon as the committee is constituted in order to deal with these matters accordingly,” Katjavivi said.