LEADER of Opposition Hon Matthew Wale has pleaded to the Prime Minister to withdraw the Constitution (Amendment) (Constituent Assembly) Bill 2023.
Speaking in Parliament today, Hon Wale said the matters to be determined by this Bill are way too important to the country to be rushed through Parliament at its death.
He said the best option is to allow a new government and Parliament to deal with these matters.
“I pray and hope the Prime Minister withdraw this Bill,” Hon Wale told Parliament.
Hon Wale has recommended that as a way forward that a two pronged process is established.
“Firstly a constituent assembly as is proposed here but not in a constitution amendment. Secondly, the constitution is amended to provide for a national referendum so that all registered electors are part of the decision-making. Such a referendum would set thresholds for approval that would need to be met in every province for a question to be determined,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said in a matter as important as our Constitution, it is important that a set majority is procured in all provinces across the nation.
Hon Wale adds this is important to the Constitution’s legitimacy and national unity.
“It is time we demonstrate trust in our people to be involved in momentous and significant decisions about their future governance,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said it is unfortunate that Parliament is being asked, only 2 weeks from its dissolution, to make a decision on a matter of great significance to this country.
“This Bill has not been afforded the time and resources to engage fully in its processes,” he said.
Hon Wale said in a matter of such significance, the Bills & Legislation Committee (BLC) would ordinarily elect to conduct a broad inquiry throughout the country.
However, he said the BLC has had only two days to conduct a limited shallow inquiry on this Bill, to meet what now seems to be an artificial deadline.
Hon Wale said this Bill or another dealing with this matter should be submitted to a new parliament at the start of the life of that House, to give maximum opportunity to do justice to the matter at hand and give respect to parliament and its processes.
“May I ask what processes did Caucus and or Cabinet use to engage with this Bill meaningfully? Did members of Caucus and Cabinet engage with the final draft constitution 2018 in such processes? Caucus and Cabinet must not abdicate their leadership responsibilities on this most important of matters,” he said.
The Opposition Leader adds the Bill also overlooks quorum for the Constituent Assembly.
He said the voting threshold for the constituent assembly is set too low at 50% of members present and voting.
Hon Wale said the voting threshold in Parliament has been reduced from its current high, to a much lower two-thirds of members present and voting.
“The electorate will have no role in this important decision. Cost-financial analysis of the final draft constitution has not been given to Parliament to assure itself that this process is even ready to move forward to the next stage,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said these are grounds for caution and wisdom must prevail and more time given to clarify all these issues.
“I, therefore, cannot support the Bill in its present form, and hope the Prime Minister withdraws it,” he said.