MASERU — Deputy Speaker of Parliament Sephiri Motanyane says MPs who go AWOL should be punished.
Motanyane made the remarks last Friday after complaining the previous day that parliament had battled to make a quorum of 30 MPs.
This was because most of the 120 MPs did not attend the session.
“Yesterday we battled to maintain a quorum to a minimum of 30 members
out of 120 members plus,” Motanyane said.
Quoting from the National Assembly Standing Order No. 4, Motanyane said if an MP fails to attend a sitting without obtaining leave from the Speaker they “shall be punished and an amount determined by the business committee shall be deducted ” from their sitting allowance.
An MP is paid M150 a day as allowance for attending parliamentary business.
“That includes senators who are ministers. They are collectively responsible for any government business that comes to this honourable house,” he said.
Motanyane said it did not matter whether a minister or any MP was holding a public gathering anywhere in the country, they were not excused from attending parliamentary sessions.
What mattered was an MP’s responsibility to parliament, he said.
“Your primary function, first and foremost as a minister, is you are a parliamentarian. That is you are responsible (sic), that means you are morally accountable,” he said.
The deputy speaker said many MPs had “thrown away their primary function”.
“If you do not have a responsibility, never in life shall you succeed. When you do not have responsibility it means you have just come to collect money and I bet you will never succeed in your duties.
“I know ministers who attend parliament regularly and MPs who come to this house and I pat them on the shoulders,” he said.
Motanyane said it had been agreed that the parliament’s working hours should be from 14:30 to 18:30 hours to allow ministers to attend to their ministerial duties in the mornings.
“Therefore there is no need for them (ministers) to dodge parliament in the afternoon.
“The people we say we are representing are watching,” he warned.
This was the second time in a year that Motanyane has complained about MPs bunking parliamentary sessions.
On May 14 last year he chastised MPs for being absent without official leave.
Only 38 MPs had attended parliament on that day.
Marematlou Freedom Party leader Moeketse Malebo said he was going to raise a motion on how to deal with MPs who go AWOL.
He told Motanyane last Thursday that he had more to say on this issue.
“Couldn’t we be allowed to talk about this? Some of us are very hurt with how things are done. We ended up just watching because we did not know what to do,” Malebo said.
The Lesotho Workers Party leader Macaefa Billy told the Lesotho Times in an interview that there was virtually no control in parliament as to how regular members should attend.
Billy said the law should work effectively on MPs so that everybody will take parliamentary business seriously.
“This is corruption, especially when some people regard themselves above parliament,” he said.
“We are not supposed to be given money if we dodge parliament. In fact, the punishment should be harder.”
Added Billy: “Some ministers come to parliament only when they have some matters to address.”