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Speaker saves Thabane



MASERU – THERE was chaos in parliament yesterday after Speaker Sephiri Motanyane blocked the motion to topple Prime Minister
Thomas Thabane.  Motanyane was adamant that he would not accept the motion because it was not properly filed.
He said the motion could not be discussed because it had been filed by an MP who belongs to a party in the ruling coalition.

He also said Sam Rapapa cannot replace Thabane because he belongs to the government and is not the leader of the opposition in parliament.
Motanyane argued that for the motion to be discussed it should be brought by an opposition MP and the proposed prime minister should be a leader of the opposition.
“This motion was supposed to be filed by the opposition not someone who is on the government side,” Motanyane said, amid howls of protest from irate MPs who accused him of protecting Thabane.
“He (leader of the opposition) is the only one who can launch that motion because he is the one to be the leader if the prime minister falls down,” he said, implying that the leader of opposition Mathibeli Mokhothu is the only one qualified to replace Thabane.

He also reasoned that the country is in the middle of national reforms “so if we take that motion, this will interfere with our reforms processes”.
“My ruling therefore is that the motion is unacceptable,” Motanyane said.
At that point the House descended into chaos at the MPs screamed at the Speaker.

They remained belligerent even as Motanyane threatened them with disciplinary action.
The Speaker also asked the sergeant at arms to take all the opposition MPs out of the House but they refused to leave. Some MPs broke into song as the Speaker tried to regain control of the House.
In blocking the motion, Motanyane curiously relied on the same argument that Attorney General Haae Phoofolo, the government’s legal advisor, squashed in his legal opinion in August.
Advocate Phoofolo wrote the opinion at the request of the clerk of parliament, Advocate Fine Maema. This was after MPs asked Motanyane to allow them to seek a legal opinion on his reasons for initially rejecting the motion.

Advocate Phoofolo’s view was that the argument that a government MP cannot bring a motion to remove the prime minister is flawed.
He said the same of Motanyane’s claim that only a leader of the opposition can be proposed as the prime minister’s replacement.
Motanyane’s position, Advocate Phoofolo said, is at variance with both the spirit and wording of the constitution.

Phoofolo pointed out that Motanyane’s ruling that only an opposition MP can bring a motion of no confidence is undemocratic and contrary the MPs’ right to “participate in the public affairs of the country as enshrined in Section 20 of the Constitution and the function of the parliament to exercise control over the executive”.
He said it is inconsistent with the idea that MPs elected by constituencies “should always be guided by their conscience and the best interests of their constituents”.

Advocate Phoofolo said the constitution is silent on when and who can propose the motion.
“In my opinion, therefore, any member of the National Assembly, including government backbenchers as Hon. Koma may propose a Motion of No Confidence in the Government.”
He said his opinion is based not only on the wording of the law but also the historical context.

Thooe Ramolibeli

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