24 Jun 2009


Slaa up in arms on 'silencing' in House
By Faraja Jube Dodoma

Karatu MP Willibrod Slaa has threatened to "go public" with what he said were issues of national interest the Parliament blocked him from tabling in the august House on Monday.

Some MPs heckled the firebrand opposition leader as he stood up in parliament on Monday to give a speech on the Prime Minister's Office 2009/10 Budget.

Dr Slaa had reportedly prepared a vitriolic attack on former President Benjamin Mkapa and the Government over alleged mismanagement of funds.

Before giving his speech, the Chadema leader was reminded to respect the Parliamentary Standing Orders and warned not to breach the law in his presentation.

But in an interview with The Citizen yesterday, Dr Slaa said the National Assembly Speaker, Mr Samwel Sitta, had no right to block debate on sensitive public issues.

He said: "I have written to the Speaker asking him why unnecessary restrictions are being imposed on MPs who want to discuss matters of public interest in parliament."

He threatened to go public with the same issues he was barred from presenting in parliament saying he had the right to let people know about matters that affected them.

"If they don't want us to speak in parliament, it will reach a point where the only reasonable thing to do is table the agenda to the people," said Dr Slaa.

CCM MPs accused the opposition legislator of attempting to use the platform to launch a verbal attack against Mr Mkapa.

Mr Mudhihir Mudhihir (Mchinga-CCM) defended the former president saying he had done "a lot of good things but people want to see the negative only".

"It was under his leadership that this country recorded significant increases in Government revenue," the MP said, praising Mr Mkapa's administration for containing inflation and opening a number of trade opportunities.

Another CCM legislator, Dr Chrisant Mzindakaya (Kwela), tried to have Dr Slaa blocked from presenting his speech at all.

But even when he finally gave his speech, the opposition leader was forced to skip tabling his prepared questions on controversial deals the Mkapa administration allegedly signed.

And in an apparent reference to Dr Slaa, Dr Mzindakaya lashed out at "jealousy hypocrites and good-for-nothing crusaders against corruption".

"Those who criticise Mr Mkapa are agents of the Devil and loafers who have done nothing in life, but are motivated by jealousy and hatred. They are themselves corrupt people," he said.

But Dr Slaa insisted he would not relent on the issues he was barred from talking about saying the Constitution and Parliamentary Immunities and Privileges Act guarantee MPs the freedom to challenge the Government in the parliament.

"I will not accept such moves by anyone any more. This is all compromising principles. But I will stand up for my principles and for justice. We all have the right voice our concerns," he said.

Dr Slaa, who had prepared his disputed speech as a shadow minister, said the Government was obliged to respond to all queries raised by MPs in parliament.

"Even if the issues are sensitive, this is the whole purpose of raising them so that people can know and be informed about what is going on," he said.

"But there has been a tendency to block all sensitive issues from being discussed in parliament," he added.

Before he gave his controversial speech, Mr Sitta told the opposition MP he had read the speech and warned him against making statements that breached parliamentary regulations.

The Speaker had also ordered Dr Slaa not to use abusive language against a former president or discuss issues that had been lined for debate during the session.

Earlier, the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, Constitutional Affairs and Governance, Mr George Lubeleje, a CCM MP, had tabled the committee's position against Dr Slaa's speech.

However, the opposition leader retorted: "Why must I have any confidence in the committee or Speaker's office if they insist on imposing on us?"

He questioned the Speaker's application of the Parliamentary Standing Orders to the contentious issues of Meremeta, Tangold, Mwananchi and Deep Green Finance companies.

Last Friday, Dr Slaa asked the Government to respond to allegations of funds mismanagement involving the four companies that have become subjects of public debate.

"I was just questioning the Government over the embezzlement of Sh155 billion in Meremeta and not about the issues pertaining to national security," he said.

Mr Sitta postponed the debate to this Monday saying the Government should be given time to prepare its response.

But Dr Slaa also questioned the Parliament barred debate on the CAG report. "Where does the Speaker obtain the directive to block the debate?"

On the PMO's 2009/10 Budget estimates, the Chadema leader queried the allocation of billions of shillings to entertainment and hospitality, which he said had nothing to do the welfare of people.

He had to put up with sporadic interventions, mainly from Mr Philip Marmo, the minister of State in the President's Office (Good Governance), who also serves as coordinator of parliamentary activities.

Mr Marmo wanted, among other things, the Speaker to reprimand Dr Slaa for his reference to the amount of funds set aside for particular votes in the Government's Budget.

However, Mr Sitta said there was nothing wrong with the MP debating the Government's budget priorities.


SOURCE: The Citizen

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