Mass Demo Against Law Amendments

The demonstration will start at 13h00 in front of parliament, just before the country’s legislature starts debating the Bill at 14h30 today.

The demonstration is organised by a civil society group calling itself “My Constitution My Decision”, comprising of non-governmental organisations such as the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the Namibian chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), Citizens for an Accountable and Transparent Society (CATS), the Non-Governmental Organisations Forum (Nangof), NamRights and Sister Namibia, amongst others.

The proposed amendments, drawn up by the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC), have sparked a public outcry in recent weeks.

Among these is the plan to create the position of a vice-president, which analysts say is a shortsighted attempt to create a top-heavy administration because the position of prime minister would continue to exist.

There are also plans to expand the number of seats in the National Assembly from the current 78. This would mean a bloated wage bill for the National Assembly, critics of the envisaged move argue.

Effecting constitutional changes about three months before the country holds general elections in November has also been received with a pinch of salt by some.

LRDC chairman Sacky Shanghala and Presidential Affairs Minister Albert Kawana both maintain that wide consultations were conducted for the proposed amendments.

However, Nangof chairperson Sandy Tjaronda said the coalition of demonstrators wants the Bill to be withdrawn and demanded wider public consultation on the proposed amendments in 2015.

“The proposed changes can have far-reaching effects on, not only the composition of our legislature and government, but on the life of every citizen,” he said.

“The only sensible option is to call for a halt to the current parliamentary proceedings and undertake extensive public consultations.”

Tjaronda said ordinary citizens and civil society were not informed or consulted on the proposed amendments.

“Were it not for the media, who had to rely on leaked information, we would have only known about it on the day it was tabled in the National Assembly on July 31,” said Tjaronda.

Critics of the Bill argue that not enough consultations were done before it was tabled and that it is being rushed in order to give the ruling party more power.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab said he was not aware of the planned demonstration.

“This is news to me, I only read what you people write,” said Gurirab.

On the demonstration, he said: “Namibians are free to demonstrate as long as they are not violent, I hope they have a legitimate cause.”

“I never knew of the concerns until this voice has been raised and even non-Namibians, mischief-makers for that matter, become Namibians and use the opportunity to have their way.”

Gurirab however warned that should the group violate any laws, the security forces would deal with them.

The much-awaited Electoral Bill, which proposes a wide range of amendments on the country’s electoral law, will also be tabled in the National Assembly today.

Source : New Era