Friday, April 13, 2007

Govt asks its officials not to attend Oasis Forum meeting

Govt asks its officials not to attend Oasis Forum meeting
By Speedwell Mupuchi
Friday April 13, 2007 [04:00]

GOVERNMENT has asked its officials not to participate in tomorrow's Oasis Forum organised debate on the constitution roadmap. And some stakeholders have welcomed the Oasis planned meeting to chart a way forward over the process. According to a statement from the office of the minister of information, this was so because the government would be expected to objectively study the outcome of the planned debate and would therefore be compromised if it were party to the Oasis Forum's recommendations.

The government commended the Oasis Forum for its planned meeting to debate the proposed roadmap by government for the adoption of the new constitution through a constituent assembly because it would enable stakeholders discuss and have an input into the process.

"However, the public ought to be reminded that it is government that facilitated for a comprehensive constitutional review through the Mung'omba Constitution Review Commission which heard evidence from about 16,000 Zambians, which was the biggest number of people to participate in such an exercise since independence," read the statement.

According to the statement, it was government that offered not to follow the process set out under the Inquiries Act of having the Constitution Review Commission recommendations submitted to and adopted by government.

It stated that government had accepted to follow the recommendation for a constituent assembly to debate and adopt the Constitution. "In order that the public and all stakeholders freely debate the government roadmap, it will not be appropriate for government officials to participate in the debate planned by the Oasis Forum," read the statement.

The Oasis Forum is tomorrow scheduled to have a meeting of all stakeholders on the Constitution at Mulungushi Conference Centre.

Oasis Forum chairperson William Mweemba said stakeholders would discuss the government and Oasis roadmaps.

He said constitutional lawyers drew up Oasis Forum's road map and that contrary to government position, that it did not recognise constitutional provisions, it took that into account.

"We need to get consensus on the whole constitution-making process and we will ask stakeholders to come up with a strategy on how to move the process forward. We will be happy to get individuals who believe our roadmap does not take into account constitutional provisions," Mweemba said.

UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma welcomed the meeting saying there was need for dialogue over the process. He said many stakeholders were unhappy with the government roadmap because it was long and expensive.

But FDD secretary general Newton Ng'uni was cautious on his party's participation in the meeting due to lack of sufficient information on the specific issues of discussion. Ng'uni said the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue to which FDD was party would today meet to among other things discuss the constitution now that Parliament had approved funds for the process.

MMD spokesperson Benny Tetamashimba said the party would not attend the meeting because the issue would be discussed among political parties.

He said it would not be right for political parties to parade themselves before the Oasis Forum to discuss the constitution when they had the platform of the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue.

Tetamashimba, however, said MMD would not survive next elections if it failed to give Zambians a new constitution before 2011.



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