MPs Be Warned!

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Snoozing and dozing off by MPs during debates will not be tolerated anymore when the National Assembly resumes its business during the first week of June. This stern warning came from the Speaker of the House, Theo-Ben Gurirab during a New Era interview this week. Gurirab, who was last year elected the second Speaker of the National Assembly after the late dr MosÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© Tjitendero, when probed about the hectic Parliamentary session that ended last week, spoke frankly about his no-nonsense approach. “Twice during this important ministerial Vote submission session, we were literally forced to sit later than 22h00, in some cases forcing Mps to fall asleep because of fatigue. One can understand this because many of them have other activities such as running businesses and being farmers during the daytime. However, that does not excuse them falling asleep when we are busy discussing national issues,” Gurirab said. Traditionally this time of the year is a busy one for all MPs due to time constraints. “Usually Parliament goes into session at 14h30 until 17h45, but because of limited time for ministerial allocation to be submitted and discussed, we extend the time by way of motions preventing any interruptions. This demands a lot of discipline and time sacrifices from all sides of the House,” he said. The Speaker prides himself for having done something unprecedented when he resumed the second session of the 4th Parliament a day after President Hifikepunye Pohamba officially opened the National Assembly in early February. “Traditionally, we would have gone into recess until a week later. I, however, in consultations with the chief whips of all the parties, changed the format to immediately get on with the work. I did this because I felt MPs just came back from a long drawn out summer holiday and that a recess would negatively influence the momentum of our business. Initially there was some resistance to my decision, but later they accepted my sound decision. This new format will continue in future,” the Speaker said. “MPs need to set the agenda without being lazy in performing our national duties. After all, we have been elected by the people. Therefore we should not be captives of the calendar – we should set it for valuable inputs in debates,” he asserted. The Speaker is impressed with the standard of debating which he says is maturing all the time. “I am particularly satisfied with the way ministers approach and deal with questions from the opposition parties. Although they are obliged to provide answers regarding their ministries’ operations and functions, of late they either diplomatically assure MPs they are not in a position to provide answers immediately, but would do so at a given time. This to me shows tolerance on the side of the ministers,” Gurirab, who with sadness officially announced the death of the former Speaker in the House on the day the National Assembly went into recess, said.