RICHWELL Siamunene has challenged parliamentarians to summon their conscience in the manner they are handling Bill 10 so as not to create an impression of “tug of war” situation in the country.
In an interview, the former defence minister said politicians must know that they come and go while the country remains.
“Parliamentarians must summon their own consciousness when dealing with Bill 10 so that they don’t create an impression of tug of war in the country. Let them sober up and understand that those in government have a duty to run the affairs of the nation and also value those in opposition because they are there for a purpose,” he said.
Siamunene said it was important for MPs to make personal judgements and not just follow what their political parties advance.
“We don’t want a situation whereby MPs just because they belong to this political party and since their leaders said this and that then they act before reading the whole document to understand what is there. If there are issues that in your own view you think need attention as an MP, why can’t you bring them out in debate? Parliament is about debating and bringing out issues,” Siamunene said. “That House is there for debating and those issues must be concluded logically other than debating them outside parliament. MPs should understand Bill 10 and debate it in parliament. Parliamentarians are not supposed to be debating and condemning issues outside the House when they have the opportunity to do that in the House. I’m sure the Speaker will give chance to every member of the House to debate. Those who will win the debate, they win then we move on as a country. We want to hear MPs debate, we want to hear their stories, we want to hear who has a better point regarding the document. That’s why parliament has two sides.”
He pointed out that a house divided against itself cannot stand hence the need for parliamentarians to find a common goal in resolving matters of national interest.
“So if we are divided against ourselves we will not make meaningful progress in terms of economic development which Zambians want to see. Citizens want politicians to advance economic development and not pulling each other. If we are pulling ourselves from day one, the whole five years, sizing each other [up], then who suffers? It’s the people because it means that they will have no progress in terms of the economy,” Siamunene said. “We need to find a common goal as a country and say ‘look, here we are going to agree all of us and we shall progress in this direction’. That’s what democracy entails, not to oppose all the time, everything else that the opposite group does is wrong, no! That is not democracy because real democracy was meant to advance social and economic development so that people are ruled by laws and not ruled by men.”
He argued that the founders of democracy – the Greeks – wanted to see a situation where democracy would become a vehicle for development and not retardation.
“Sometimes as a country we need to move as a united force or united country rather than always arguing. Mind you, those in government are driving us now so the way you approach them, the way you advance your issues, must be done in a proper manner such that they would not be distracted but thank God we have a cool President (Edgar Lungu) who doesn’t rush in doing things just to suit his interest but listens to the people’s concerns,” Siamunene said. “One person may be right and majority might be wrong, so the President is in a better position because he receives information from all over and God speaks to him too. So let’s give him that support to govern the country nicely than every day condemning everything. Leaders go and come, parties go and come. We have seen parties in this country that have died but people have remained. We have seen leaders that have led these parties and have gone but the country has remained and moved so the issue here is that MPs must go to the House to debate and make their own conscious decision as honourable members of parliament and not to walk out. Walking out is not a solution. If your views are better, people will remember you even if you lose the debate.”
Siamunene argued that Bill 10 was not as bad as it was being portrayed.
“Saying that the entire document is wrong is not true. There are certain things in there that are good. Opposing because one doesn’t belong to this party or that party is not good. We should not approach national matters in that manner such that if you dislike those in government then whatever they do they have not done it right. I have only heard few opposition leaders who have praised government when they do good. We will have a tug of war in the country if we continue with this direction of partisan politics when dealing with national matters,” Siamunene warned.
He pointed out that Bill 10 should not be allowed to bring division in the country hence the need for politicians to concentrate on finding common ground.
“Those who are supporting and opposing Bill 10 must look for a common ground. Those in government have a duty to govern and there are things that they think will help the future generation so it’s important as a country to pay attention than just to argue,” said Siamunene.
“We have spent so much time talking about Bill 10 and all our focus is on just on this bill and when are we going to have time to look at critical issues that are perverting the country like hunger and unemployment? Those against Bill 10 have a huge task to clearly articulate what they don’t want and what they want to be included. Unfortunately, they are only concentrating on what they don’t want but our question is what do they want to be included? Let them articulate to say we want this and that to be included because we all understand that there are certain flows in our Constitution which needs to be amended. And those in government have a right to support changes in the Constitution which needs attention.”/LM