By CHILA NAMAIKO –
SPEAKER of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini yesterday suspended for 30 days the 48 United Party for National Development (UPND) Members of Parliament (MPs) that boycotted President Edgar Lungu’s recent address to the National Assembly.
The suspension of the members, the majority of whom were yesterday clad in black suits and neck-ties in the House, was effective yesterday.
“Let me inform you that your conduct of boycotting the President (Mr Lungu)’s address as a way of protest was unjustified and unbefitting the conduct of an MP. The President is the Head of State and Government, and you took oaths of allegiance,” he said.
The Speaker said this when he rendered a lengthy ruling to the House yesterday against the 48 MPs for boycotting the State of the nation address in the application of Constitutional Values and Principles by President Lungu on March 17, this year.
The 48, however, exclude the 10 UPND MPs, that include Keith Mukata (Chilanga), who was present in the House at the time of the President’s address, while others namely; Jack Mwiimbu (Monze Central), Elliot Kamondo (Mufumbwe), Ephraim Bbelemu (Mbabala), Victor Lumayi (Chavuma), Sililo Mutaba (Mwandi), Mukumbuta Mulowa (Senanga), Ambroise Lufuma (Kabompo), Stanley Kakubo (Kapiri-Mposhi), and Fred Chaatila (Moomba), either obtained leave of absence or were on a foreign tour of Parliamentary duties.
The Speaker also challenged UPND MPs to resign on moral grounds if they maintained that they do not recognise Mr Lungu as Head of State.
Meanwhile, Dr Matibini has referred a case in which UPND president Hakainde Hichilema issued disparaging remarks against him to Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja for investigation and possible prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
By being suspended, the UPND MPs were immediately directed to leave the House through the main entrance of the Chamber with Dr Matibini describing it as a ‘walk of shame’ while Patriotic Front MPs burst into laughter as UPND Mazabuka MP Garry Nkombo led his members in walking out of the House.
In accordance with section 28 (3) of the National Assembly (powers and privileges) Act, during the period of suspension, the MPs shall not be paid a salary or allowance entitled to them.
Participate in any business or activity of the House or a committee assigned to them or in their capacity as MPs, and entering the precincts of the assembly has been suspended. This has been extended to their motel as well.
Dr Matibini said that by taking allegiance to the President, the MPs were expected to be respectful to Mr Lungu as that was a House of honour, decorum and dignity.
As a Speaker, he said, he was duty bound to ensure that honour, decorum and dignity of the House was protected and preserved at all times.
He reiterated that he would not tolerate gross indiscipline and misconduct from any member, and warned of imposing stiffer penalty against those who would boycott a Presidential address to the House in future.
Despite UPND MPs having boycotted President Lungu’s official opening of the National Assembly on September 30 last year, and later apologised to the Speaker, they again boycotted the President’s recent address in the House.
The recent address was different from the opening one to Parliament as it focused on the application of National Values and Principles as enshrined in the Republican Constitution under Articles 8, 9 and 86, sub-article (1).
Zambia, the Speaker said, had a duly elected President (Mr Lungu), who was declared as such by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), and sworn into office on September 13, last year, albeit the UPND launched an unsuccessful petition challenging the election of the President in the Constitutional Court.
He said following Mr Lungu’s swearing-in, the President also swore in the Speaker and in turn, he swore all MPs, including the UPND lawmakers in the House and all took oath of allegiance to President Lungu.
Dr Matibini wondered why UPND MPs, who swore allegiance, could not recognise the President and challenged them to resign on moral grounds, if they maintained not to recognise the Head of State.
The normal business of the House, however, continued even after the suspension of the 48 UPND MPs as those 10 that remained would be attendance in the House.
And the Speaker warned Mr Hichilema and other leaders of political parties and the general public at large, that their comments relating to the business or matters of the House should be measured and made within the confines of the law and Parliamentary practice and procedures.
He said if they continued to do so, they risked not only coming into contempt of the House, but also being liable to be prosecuted and convicted of criminal offences.
In this regard, Dr Matibini referred to the Inspector General of Police for investigation and possible prosecution by the DPP a matter where Mr Hichilema demeaned him and the House by issuing disparaging remarks in The Mast Newspaper of March 23, this year.