. . . party accuses premier of using prorogation as ‘survival device’
The country’s main opposition party, the Democratic Congress (DC), says the current nine-month suspension of parliament by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane is unacceptable and “a tactic to benefit an individual and not the nation”.
Dr Thabane prorogued parliament early this month saying this would give the three government partners time to sort out their differences without the distraction of parliamentary business.
Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) formed a coalition government with the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) after the May 26, 2012 general election had failed to produce a single party with the majority parliamentary seats required to form a government on its own.
However, early this month, LCD leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Mothetjoa Metsing, publicly accused Dr Thabane of not consulting him and his BNP counterpart, Thesele ‘Maseribane, when making key decisions.
Mr Metsing further said the premier’s actions had prompted the LCD to sign an agreement with the DC, with a view to forming a new coalition government.
This announcement, and a proposed no-confidence parliamentary motion in the government spearheaded by the DC in March this year, then forced the prime minister to advise His Majesty King Letsie III to prorogue the National Assembly from June 10 until February 27 2015.
But the DC believes the prorogation was just a ploy to ensure the survival of the prime minister and did not take the welfare of the nation, into consideration.
Addressing a press conference held in Maseru on Tuesday this week, the DC Deputy Spokesperson, Refiloe Litjobo, said Dr Thabane’s reasons to seek the prorogation of parliament are not convincing enough and are “personal”.
“This 8th Parliament could only be prorogued if there was a pressing development like re-introducing a certain Bill that had not been attended to in Senate during the life of the previous parliament.
“The prime minister used prorogation not to benefit the nation but as a survival device to run away from the no-confidence motion he, and his government, were facing in parliament,” Mr Litjobo said.
“Sorting out differences between the three parties in government cannot take such a long time because parliament was already going for a winter recess of three months.
“Those three months were going to be enough to address whatever problems the government was facing, so the nine-month prorogation was not necessary.”
The DC National Executive Committee Member and former Government Secretary, Tlohang Sekhamane, also told Tuesday’s press briefing that “institutions of democracy are being weakened or left undeveloped”, under the coalition government.
“For instance, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is dragging its feet in improving the quality of electoral data.
“Again, it was shocking to hear the Prime Minister identifying IEC commissioners by their political parties at one of his ABC rallies just before the Thaba-Phechela and Thaba-Moea by-elections in February this year, yet the commission should be transparent and promote free and fair elections,” Mr Sekhamane said.
The prorogation of parliament, he further charged, only sought to delay the enactment of laws which seek to enhance the country’s democracy and economic development, thereby improving the quality of Basotho’s living standards.
Mr Sekhamane also urged Dr Thabane to open parliament as a matter of urgency as its continued prorogation was not good for the nation.
“We, the DC, have to remind the prime minister that accountability is one of the basic indicators of good governance.
“We, therefore, appeal to the prime minister not to reverse the gains we have made as a nation in building our democracy and economy.
“We do not subscribe to the sentiments that Thabane has prorogued parliament to fight corruption because the suspension will only encourage it.
“Without the august house, there will be no accountability of the M15 billion allocated by parliament for use during this nine-month prorogation period.”
According to Sekhamane, prorogation puts the nation in “economic jeopardy” as most of Lesotho’s development partners can only render support on the “basis of openness”.