MPS challenge parly closure in court
TEN Members of Parliament on Tuesday lodged an urgent application before the High Court seeking an order to compel the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai, to reconvene the august house after it was abruptly adjourned sine die last month.
The 10 MPs are seeking an order declaring that Ms Motsamai’s decision to indefinitely adjourn the National Assembly on the 22nd of November 2016 “in tandem with Standing Order No. 18(4) of the National Assembly of Lesotho Standing Order of 2007 be reviewed, corrected and set aside” on the grounds that it is not in the national interest.
They also want Ms Motsamai to show cause, if any, why she should not be ordered to reconvene the National Assembly.
The applicants are Mr Samonyane Ntsekele, Mr Majoro Mohapi, Mr Motlohi Maliehe, Chief Joang Molapo, Ms ‘Mamolula Ntabe, Mr Moshoeshoe Fako, Ms ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli, Mr Tjoetsane Seoka, Mr Mokhele Moletsane and Mr Tieho Mamasiane.
The 10 applicants are drawn from the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP), Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and Democratic Congress (DC).
The respondents include the Ms Motsamai, Clerk of the National Assembly King’s Counsel Fine Maema, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, ABC leader Thomas Thabane, BNP leader Chief Thesele ‘Maseribane, RCL leader Keketso Rantšo and all other MPs.
The applicants’ lawyer, Advocate Makhetha Julius Motšoari, also filed a certificate of urgency to advance reasons why he urged the court to treat the case as an urgent matter.
He argued: “The closure of the National Assembly on the basis as stated by the 1st respondent has clearly created a constitutional deadlock which must be addressed as a matter of urgency because there is an impending coalition of other members of parliament, the legitimacy of which is dependent on the opening and deliberation of parliamentary proceedings”.
He further argued: “The withdrawal of a significant number of the ruling coalition government has clearly necessitated an issue of public interest in the status of the ruling government that must be expedited swiftly.
“A new coalition agreement has been entered into by a majority of members of parliament and the closure of the parliament on the basis of a standing order which has been irregularly applied and interpreted.”
Advocate Motšoari alleges “the 1st respondent has created a constitutional impasse in that the elected members of the legislature are emasculated from performing the constitutional mandates that have been bestowed upon them.
He also argues that the closure is prejudicing the nation as there are some reports which are supposed to be adopted as a matter of urgency in the National Assembly.
In support of the application Mr Ntsekele, who is also the ABC’s Secretary General, made an affidavit giving facts that surrounded the adjournment.
He said it was “worth noting to indicate that the business of the day is regulated by the order paper which serves as the agenda of the day.
“The last item on the order paper for that day (22 November 2016) provided for the motion to adjourn the house sine die.”
He argued that it was “not proper for the 1st respondent (Ms Motsamai) to have adjourned the house sine die as the motion was improperly included in the order paper.”
Mr Ntsekele further stated: “The 3rd applicant Honourable Motlohi Maliehe on that day stood on a point of order to inform the 1st respondent that he does not understand how the motion to adjourn the house sine die was included on the order paper as the business committee had never had chance to debate on the motion and or agree on its inclusion.
“He even informed the speaker that as a member of business committee he only saw the notice relating to the motion a day before, which is the 21st of November 2016 and there was no way he could object as the notice had already been prepared. Therefore the better way was to raise the objection in the house.”
But he says Ms Motsamai ruled out Mr Maliehe on the issue.
“She went further to say that Honourable Maliehe as the member of the business committee was supposed to explain that better to the house. She then dismissed him and then engaged the house to move to another business of the day.
“I have been duly advised and believe the same advice to be true and correct that the business committee draws the programme of the National Assembly and if it is so decides, determine the time allotted to the bill or any motion. In this case the business committee knew nothing about the programme of the 22nd day of November 2016,” he explained.
Mr Ntsekele alleges when the speaker announced the adjournment of the house there was noise of dissatisfaction from the MPs.
He added: “Members of the house raised points of order but the speaker ignored them and proceeded to adjourn the house sine die.
“I therefore aver on this score that the exercise of discretion by the 1st respondent in executing the postponement of the house pursuant to the relevant standing order was improperly exercised and hence irregular.”
He also argues that the speaker was wrong to adjourn the house without the motion being debated by the MPs.
“As members of the National Assembly we have every right to discuss and/or challenge every motion which appears on the order paper or motion which appears as a business of the day,” he said.
The applicants also sought for an order directing the Clerk of the National Assembly to submit the record of the National Assembly proceedings of 22 November 2016 to the High Court.
The lawyers representing applicants and respondents are expected to appear before court tomorrow.