Madam Speaker and Honourable Members,
A race to the bottom is currently underway in our Parliament. Today in this House, we engage and deal with our Nation’s challenges, less according to national interests and the need to create a better life for all, but more according to cheap political point scoring and vote maximisation at all costs, and mostly according to the primitive doctrine that might is right.
This approach causes us to miss countless opportunities to use our People’s Boardroom as an important space in the public sphere for debates and contestation of ideas. As a consequence, we allow debates to degenerate into an orgy of insults and counter-insults; put bluntly, into an orgy of nonsense our nation can ill afford.
We have to arrest this problem, if we are to bequeath to our progeny a vibrant Parliament that is a voice of the people, and not one that is thick with the wreckage of failure.
Recently, I attended a Conference on Illicit Flows, Transfer Pricing and Tax Evasion in Malawi. While at the conference, we got an opportunity to attend the sitting of the Malawian Parliament and discovered the following.
Parliaments of Malawi and Kenya always endeavour to give as much speaking time as they can – sometimes even more time – to the opposition than they do to ruling parties.
The rationale behind this is that they believe in the principle that: “The opposition must have its say, while the ruling party will (ultimately) have its way”, (through obviously the use of its majority during voting time in times of disagreements).
This does not by any means imply that the ruling parties are not given enough time to articulate their policies and programmes, but that opposition parties are also given ample time to articulate their alternative policy proposals and to scrutinize as well as constructively criticise the work of Government.
When speakers run out of time, their presiding officers politely request them to wrap up and they give them a minute or two to do so. This greatly enhanced the dignity and decorum of their House.
As a result, our counterparts were shocked to hear that Africa’s model democracy (South Africa) gives opposition parties 3 minutes speaking time during Parliamentary debates.
They call it a joke!
We have to increase the minimum speaking to 5 minutes in debates in order to give us an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to debates, which would enhance the decorum of the House.
In conclusion, I believe there is scope for our Parliament to partner with Sister Parliaments on the Continent in the campaign against illicit financial flows, transfer pricing and tax evasion, as well as on other African programmes.
The UDM supports Budget Vote 2.