Year of Learning and Lost Opportunities, Achievements

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The Speaker of the National Assembly has described the year 2006 as a year of learning, lost opportunities and one of some significant achievements for the Namibian Parliament. The Assembly has adjourned until next year. Gurirab said it was a learning year for many of the new parliamentarians who made it to Parliament in March 2005. This provided a huge challenge to the august House. Gurirab noted, however, that the new parliamentarians benefited from the experience of their seniors which enabled parliament to execute its functions efficiently. “The first-term members had to learn that the operations of parliament are based on rule management in order for the house to be orderly”. Gurirab said parliament is dominated by the Swapo Party and weak and fragmented opposition parties. This sometimes causes imbalance in the Assembly. He noted, however, that the quality of contributions by the opposition parties in motions and debates have compensated for their few numbers. “I have also ensured that debates and motions, even if political, remain constructive”. Another achievement Gurirab highlighted for the year 2006 was that parliament had devoted every Thursday to questions and answers. The Speaker said the question and answer proceedings had given confidence to opposition parties and an opportunity to critically ask pertinent questions that might be facing citizens. The former Prime Minister also commended cabinet ministers and deputies for the way they dealt with questions from opposition parties. “Most of the ministers really researched and gave well-informed answers to the opposition parties which shows respect for them”. Gurirab noted further that the question time sessions also gave the opposition an opportunity to raise issues through questions other than motions. On the bills and motions debated in parliament in the 2006, Gurirab said the motion on bank rates tabled by Congress of Democrats MP, Kala Gertze, was a highlight of the year. He noted that the motion was not a political one and enjoyed the interest of most parliamentarians, and was referred to a standing committee. Gurirab also singled out the State-owned Enterprise Bill and said the bill was very important as it deals with issues that could have a serious impact on the country’s economy. The Speaker further singled out the Genocide debate, and said the motion was very historic. He said that parliament, being one of the principal branches of the State, had expressed itself on the matter for the first time. “Because parliament is viewed as the voice of the people, the genocide debate could not have enjoyed a better platform than the national assembly”. He added that it was up to the other branches of the State, such as cabinet and judiciary, to decide what happens next. On the Lubango dungeons motion, which was thrown out, Gurirab said it could be viewed as a lost opportunity as the dungeons issue remains problematic. “It is an issue that must sooner than later enjoy the same attention and focus as the genocide”. He said the matter should not be a political football, because it is a human rights issue. “The sore is raw and, unless we deal with it, it will continue to be a burden on the national leadership”. Gurirab said the motion came in the same context as the genocide issue and should have given everybody the opportunity to reflect on what had happened.