HERITAGE Party president Godfrey Miyanda has petitioned Parliament to discontinue proceedings on the remaining stages of the Constitution Bill currently before the House until the Minister of Justice presents Government policy on the several contentious provisions identified in the draft.
Brigadier General Miyanda accused Justice Minister Ngosa Simbyakula of disowning the Bill when he told the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution that he and his Government had no policy position on the Bill that was under consideration in the National Assembly.
He said that Government took the Constitution to Parliament in order for the House to determine the non-contentious clauses but that it did not indicate which clauses were contentious and which were not despite having promised to do so.
He charged that Dr Simbyakula misled the House when he suggested that there was a blanket mandate for elected MPs to pass the Bill containing serious contentious issues, without the benefit of the policy position of the Executive.
He explained that MPs should be given a position to decide whether to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the Constitution in order to be personally accountable for their decision to the people.
“By his conduct the Hon Minister has disowned the Public Bill franked by the signature of the Attorney General of Zambia and introduced in the House by the Hon Minister himself on behalf of the Government.
“Further there is no MP who can truthfully claim that he or she has addressed his or her whole constituency to seek their input on contentious issues,” Gen Miyanda said.
The former republican vice president said it was irregular for the minister not to have allowed for debates over the general principles of the clauses which actually necessitated the proposed changes to the entire Constitution, and that equally irregular for all the MPs to vote on a serious matter as the Constitution when the Executive had not state its position.
He charged that the Justice minister deliberately neglected to point out the contentious and non-contentious clauses as though to suggest that there was nothing contentious in the Bill, including such acts as the decision to combine the referendum and the presidential and general elections which needed to have been discussed with all the interest groups in the country, which the Executive rejected.
And Gen Miyanda accused the Minister of Justice and his Government of refusing to address the contentious practice of poaching opposition MPs which remained a contentious matter which he attributed to the ruling party’s majority vote during the Bill’s second reading in Parliament.
He charged that the scheme “…was designed NOT for development and/or building unity but for skewing the vote in favour of the Executive, otherwise known in political circles as ‘rigging’, a pre-determined outcome”.
Gen Miyanda said his “petition is to provide an opportunity to retrace the steps of the presentation of the National Assembly Bills numbers 16 and 17 and give a well-reasoned and full presentation of why we need to overhaul the current Constitution”.