PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Political Advisor, Fako Likoti, says the opposition bloc’s continued boycotting of parliament would result in the holding of by-elections in their constituencies.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times yesterday, Dr Likoti said 41 of opposition parties’ 55 directly elected parliamentary seats would be in jeopardy if they failed to pitch up when the legislature reconvenes on 30 October 2015. The other 14 seats were awarded by a proportional representation system.
This comes after All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) Members of Parliament (MPs) vowed last week to continue boycotting the legislature unless their leaders are back from exile and army commander Lieutenant-General Tlali Kamoli is no longer in office.
“The continuing boycott of the legislature has serious repercussions for opposition MPs,” said Dr Likoti.
“One of those serious repercussions is by-elections. The Constitution of Lesotho Section 60, read with the Second Amendment to the Constitution Act (1997) in Section 60 under Tenure of Seats of Member Of Parliament states that:
“(1) A Senator (other than a principal chief) or a Member of the National Assembly shall vacate his seat as such if, in any one year and without the written permission of the President of the Senate or, as the case maybe, the Speaker of the National Assembly, he is absent from one third of the total number of seating’s of the house of which she or he is a member …”
He said only a week was left before the constitutional section “could be operationalised”.
“The government of Lesotho is strongly appealing to these MPs to honour the public mandate and go back to the National Assembly where they belong,” Dr Likoti said.
“In fact, the government is urging these absconded MPs to assume their democratically-elected seats in Parliament.”
He said the opposition MPs failure to pitch up would mean “by-elections were in the offing”.
“This is the law and not in the interests of anybody. To conduct by-elections for 41 constituencies would be very expensive for a poor country like Lesotho which has just emerged from general elections earlier this year. It is in the interests of Basotho and Lesotho for all the opposition MPs to go back to work and save the country unnecessary expenses.”
The boycott, he noted, was legally wrong and compromised good governance.
“The absence of an official opposition means that national policies cannot be extensively debated. This system produces a parochial parliament whereby there is concurrence on all issues even where there are glaring problems because the side of the opposition which does not exist in parliament cannot be known,” he said.
“Therefore, an opposition as a minority representative in parliament opposes the majority and presses for alternative solutions using their influence to derive a viable compromise.
“It is generally agreed that a structured opposition is a viable and sustainable part of a democratic polity. The absence of the opposition would mean that there are no checks and balances in parliament.”
Dr Likoti said the opposition’s decision would damage their political fortunes in the long run.
“Elected MPs belong to Parliament and not outside it. Any disagreements the opposition may have can be adequately dealt with in the legislature and not outside it. They were elected to serve the nation in Parliament and not in the streets,” he said.
“MPs are mandated to hold government accountable, represent the nation in Parliament and make laws for the country. MPs are not elected to fire army generals; that is the job of the executive. It is therefore, futile to boycott Parliament. Voters are much wiser these days, so be careful not to take Basotho for a ride.”
The opposition’s argument that they would boycott parliament because their leaders, Thomas Thabane (ABC), Thesele ‘Maseribane (BNP) and Keketso Rantšo (RCL), were not safe in Lesotho did not hold water, Dr Likoti argued.
“Among the reasons often cited for the opposition’s refusal to return to parliament is the personal security of their leaders. While this is understandable, it would be important to look at this security issue closely to dissect its plausibility.
“I have read and written a lot about security issues. Maybe it is important to test their assertions against the following definitions of personnel security or individual security. Several definitions have been made about this type of security by various dictionaries as follows;
- inadequately guarded or protected, unsafe, shortage of military or the police in the country
- not sure or certain; doubtful about security of an individual
- the state of being subject to danger or injury
- the state of danger, the condition of being susceptible to harm or injury
- the state of being exposed to risks or anxiety
- the anxiety you experience when you feel vulnerable and; The state of being followed my unmarked vehicles at night or being threatened by an army or police.”
“Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that all these definitions apply to our opposition leaders and of course they all form a plausible reason for one to run away from their own country. The question is can all these threats justify MPs boycotting parliament?
“Can all these threats be sufficient enough? To create anxiety to MPs who are elected to perform their national duty of legislating and holding government accountable? I think these people are not serious about their national duty.”
He said the opposition leaders were being disingenuous in claiming they can’t come back to Lesotho “since some of them secretly visit the country”.
“For example, one of them has been spotted in Berea and Maputsoe consulting his doctors and addressing his party’s executive committee at least four times since August 2015. The other one has also been to his rural homestead to conduct a traditional ceremony for his granddaughter,” said Dr Likoti.
“Can we surely say that these leaders are insecure? Are they in real danger? Are they not exposing themselves to danger? Maybe someone should tell them how it was to live in exile especially during the 1970s. Basotho are really being taken for a ride here. Can we really justify their absence by boycotting the National Assembly where they were duly and democratically-elected to serve by Basotho?”
He said the exiled leaders even used their cellphones despite claiming to be fearing for their safety.
“These leaders use phones to talk to their supporters, yet a person in exile doesn’t use such gadgets. As if that is not enough, they keep on withdrawing their salaries without working. This has become the norm among opposition MPs who earn salaries without working,” Dr Likoti quipped.
“We might as well join them by also boycotting our jobs while continuing to earn our salaries. By the way, who will pay us since we will all be boycotting our jobs? Basotho are being taken for a ride here.”