By Alexactus T. Kaure
Availability and access to information is a crucial element in a parliamentary system.
The Speaker of Parliament, Theo-Ben Gurirab, who just returned from a Commonwealth Speakers’ Conference in London, said this when briefing the UK High Commissioner to Namibia, Mark Bensberg.
Gurirab said the most valuable experience for him was to see how the law-making process works under the British system. He said this was a good lesson for a young democracy like Namibia.
The Speaker said the visit was a success and they had an opportunity for discussion either in groups or individually with their British counterparts.
“We toured the House of Commons and Lords and I was impressed by the very rich history, especially the preservation of antiquity.”
The Conference discussed issues of privileges and the rights of reply, keeping order and fostering decorum, standards and ethics for parliamentarians as well as parliament’s relations with the public.
Quizzed about the standard of parliamentary debate in Namibia, the Speaker said he was generally happy but a lot more needed to be done. He singled the need for research, information and proper personnel to build capacity.
Also singled out is the need to strengthen the committee system. He said access to information would enable MPs to do their work effectively because sometimes people talk about issues they have no knowledge about. He said the flow of relevant information was presently lacking in both Parliament and Cabinet, and that has to be addressed.
The Speaker said the next Parliament, which opens on February 19, would discuss labour, health, education, housing and other social issues. He said it was time for MPs to move from politicking and the politics of personalities to more issue and policy oriented debates. He wants the debates to be robust, saying MPs can shout if they wanted but about issues.
The British Government sponsored the conference, which was held at Westminster between January 2 and 6 this year.
On his part, Bensberg said the British High Commission will continue to encourage and fund whenever possible, greater links and cooperation between Namibia and the Commonwealth.