Saturday, October 20, 2012

Opposition walkout not appropriate - Matibini

Opposition walkout not appropriate - Matibini
By Mwala Kalaluka and Mukosha Funga
Fri 19 Oct. 2012, 14:00 CAT

SPEAKER of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini said it is not appropriate for legislators to abdicate their function.

Only two opposition members of parliament and MMD parliamentarians appointed into the PF cabinet remained in their seats after a bulk of legislators from the MMD and the UPND walked out of the House over finance minister Alexander Chikwanda's absence.

During resumption of debate on the 2013 national budget in the House on Wednesday afternoon, Nalikwanda MMD member of parliament Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa asked whether it was in order for Chikwanda, who is also acting President, to be absent from the chamber when the motion he had moved was under debate.

Prof Lungwangwa, who earlier addressed a caucus of MMD members of parliament on the balcony at Parliament building during the 16:15 tea break, said Chikwanda should have been present in the House to take note of the pertinent issues raised by the legislators during the debate.

"We have not been informed as to who is the Minister of Finance in this House," said Prof Lungwangwa. "Is it in order for the procedure of the House to be handled in this manner, which to a large extent is highly unsatisfactory?"

In his ruling, Speaker Matibini said the subject had been raised the previous day but he reiterated that issues of government portfolios in the House were a preserve of the leader of government business, the Vice-President.

"There is no requirement to announce the various changes," Speaker Matibini said. "As far as the Office of the Speaker is concerned, no such changes have been made and notified...So on that premise, I shall proceed on the basis that the substantive holder is still performing that portfolio as Minister of Finance."

Speaker Matibini said apart from the leader of government business, all ministers had deputies.

"Since yesterday (Tuesday) the deputy minister of finance has been present and I certainly believe and I don't have the slightest doubt that he has the ability to follow through the debate," Speaker Matibini said. "As far as I see it, there is no lacuna in terms of functioning of the House. I empathise that obviously the presence of the Minister of Finance is quite inspiring in the House, very reassuring but there is no dysfunctionality here at all."

Speaker Matibini said he did not see any constitutional crisis arising from Chikwanda's absence and he ordered that the debate on the budget should proceed upon which the opposition legislators stood from their various vantages on the left side and left the House.

Ruling on another point of order raised by deputy minister in the Office of the Vice-President Harry Kalaba over the opposition's walk out, Speaker Matibini said it was inappropriate for parliamentarians to abdicate their function.

"Is it in order for all those on your left to continue at government cost... and receiving allowances from taxpayer's money to come here and not doing the business they are supposed to? Not representing the people they should?" Kalaba asked Speaker Matibini who responded:

"We will continue doing our business in the manner we are. It is not clear why they left but it might be because of the ruling I have rendered that the debate should go on even in the absence of the finance minister. No dysfunctionality and once the ruling is made, it should be respected. I expect all Members of Parliament on the left and on the right to attend to the business of the House. It is not appropriate to abdicate that function."

But Nangoma UPND member of parliament Boyd Hamusonde and his Kabompo East MMD counterpart Danny Chingimbu remained in the House.
Outside the debating chamber, Chadiza MMD member of parliament Allan Mbewe loudly complained that whatever issues the opposition legislators raised before the Speaker were regarded as nonsense.

Other opposition members of parliament converged in the car park on the eastern side of the building before driving away from the premises.

Meanwhile, contributing to the 2013 budget debate, Kamfinsa member of parliament Moses Chishimba said the opposition had nothing to say over the budget hence their resolve to stage walk outs whenever the issue was tabled.

"The reason why my colleagues left, they knew I would be hammering them," said Chishimba. "They are not only punishing the PF government but they are also punishing their relatives."

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