’Constitutional Amendments Unlawful’

HUMAN rights lawyer Norman Tjombe has said amending the Constitution without consulting the people is against the law.

HUMAN rights lawyer Norman Tjombe has said amending the Constitution without consulting the people is against the law.

Government is seeking to introduce a raft of Constitutional amendments ahead of the November elections. Attorney General Albert Kawana tabled the amendments on Thursday in parliament, before it was adjourned to 12 August 2014 for further discussions.

In a press statement last week, Tjombe warned that lack of extensive consultations is a violation of the people’s right to influence the composition and policies of the government according to Article 17 of the Constitution.

“The consultations of political parties alone are wholly inadequate, since what is sought to be amended is not just an ordinary law, but the highest law of the land. That alone should be reason enough why extensive consultations in all corners of the country, with various stakeholders such as youth movements, farmers, media, women’s groups, students, etc. are required,” said Tjombe.

He pointed out that although this might take a few years, it needs to be done so that each member of parliament and all interest groups have a say and their concerns and interests are taken care of.

“Namibia is a participatory democracy. The best way to demonstrate that is to have an all people’s participation, especially when the most important matters, which will affect everyone, are to be discussed and implemented. Otherwise, failure to do so is a blatant violation of the Namibian Constitution,” said Tjombe.

He also said that the constitution is the embodiment of our collective soul. “We should not pay lip service to our commitment to democracy,” he said.

Some of the amendments call for an increase of parliamentary seats to 104 the creation of a vice presidency the reform of the Electoral Commission of Namibia and the introduction of an electoral court.

The Delimitation Commission will be replaced with the Boundaries Delimitation and Demarcation Commission, which will become a permanent body and not only brought about every five years as is the case with the Delimitation Commission. The Judiciary, on one hand, will have its own budget and an accounting officer will be appointed to head the administration. Kawana said 10 political parties were consulted and their suggestions are included in the proposed amendments. He shot down media reports that the amendments were proposed by an individual and that one organ of the State is assuming power at the expense of the other.

“Most of the amendments are aimed at enhancing the checks and balances necessary in a democratic state,” he said. “Claims alleging that Prime Minister Hage Geingob is power hungry and is proposing these amendments to amass power, are false. These media reports are misleading. The constitutional amendments were not made in isolation.”

He said the Law Reform and Development Commission drafted the Constitutional Third Amendment Bill of 2014.

“We approached our principals for further direction and we were directed to engage Cabinet and political parties under the leadership of the Prime Minister.

“I think it is an excellent idea as a number of democratic countries have this similar legislation. Many of the suggestions were made in consultation with Cabinet and the President,” said Kawana.

NamRights director Phil ya Nangoloh welcomed five of the proposed amendments – the creation of an independent electoral commission introduction of the boundaries commission curbing of runaway and unaccountable powers of the office of the Prosecutor General and of the Ombudsman the creation of an administratively independent judicial department and the strengthening of the Judicial Service Commission.

Ya Nangoloh, however, rejected amendments made with “ulterior motives and which are merely intended to create even more ministries and thereby provide for even fatter salaries and other perks for politicians at the expense of the already impoverished”.

He said affording more powers to the President would “surely and dramatically as well as severely undermine the principles of democracy and the rule of law”.

Source : The Namibian