The Constitution Reform Bill, which has sparked heated arguments at several public forums, will not be debated in Parliament, as had been expected, with information emerging that it is to be sent back to the government for redrafting. A highly placed source within the National Assembly, who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told The Citizen yesterday that the Bill, over which rival political groups have clashed in the past one week or so, would not be tabled for a vote in august House.
Called ‘The Review of Constitution Bill 2011’, it had been scheduled for a second reading on Monday, where MPs would have voted to accept and amend it, or reject it altogether.
However, following the Bill’s widespread criticism on the Mainland and in Zanzibar during open forums to debate it, the source said, the parliamentary committee on House Standing Orders chaired by the Speaker, Ms Anne Makinda, would today endorse the decision to send it back for redrafting.
According to our impeccable source, also to be shelved is the Public Procurement Bill, 2010. The committee for industry and trade was reportedly unhappy with two clauses. One sought to allow bulk government purchase of used equipment and the other was on the apparent selective application of the public private partnership (PPP) law.
The procurement Bill will now be brought back to the House during the Budget sessions in June, while the constitutional review one will have to wait until the October sitting.
The Bunge official admitted that the two Bills would be deferred to give room for improvement. He, however, said the proposed constitution law would need a major rewrite to incorporate the issues that have emerged.Last evening, members of the House committee on the Constitution, legal and public administration, were holed up in a lengthy meeting for the second day running to come up with the final and binding decision.
The committee chairperson, Ms Pindi Chana, said in a telephone interview from Dodoma that the committee was reviewing the inputs of members of the public and organisations at various forums in Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Dodoma.“We will submit our resolutions to the relevant authorities for the final decision next week,” she said, adding that she could not give a clear cut answer as to whether the Bill would be withdrawn because their meeting was expected to run late into the night.
Earlier, a member of the committee, Singida East MP Tundu Lissu, told The Citizen that they had hit a deadlock on Wednesday, after several MPs, mostly from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), appeared to oppose a move to shelve the Bill.
“We had a very long meeting but we didn’t reach a consensus. It’s my hope today that our advice to reject the Bill will be accepted,” the Chadema MP said. According to him, it would be difficult for Parliament and the government to “proceed with the Bill as it is”.
Earlier, there were signs of the government yielding, with Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and the minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ms Celina Kombani, both hinting at a possible compromise over the contentious aspects of the Bill that could have set the constitutional review process rolling.
Yesterday, during the question and answer session in Parliament, Mr Pinda said the government would wait and act on the advice of Parliament on the way forward. The PM was responding to the Leader of the Official Opposition, Mr Freeman Mbowe (Chadema-Hai), who wanted to know if the government would withdraw the Bill to allow for more dialogue and consensus building.
“I don’t have any direct answers right now but as government, we shall be considerate and take advice responsibly since the Bill is for the public good,” said Mr Pinda. He added: “Madam Speaker, I know Mbowe wants to force me to agree on shelving the Bill and I would also like to ease the tension building among wananchi, as noted by another MP. We need to have a good constitution with good contributions from all wananchi.”
The Speaker intervened, saying the matter has been presented to her office and that experts were trying to sort it out. For her part, Ms Kombani said she was not aware of the move to shelve the constitution review Bill, but maintained that the decision lay with Parliament, as the document’s custodian.“Our aim is to involve the people. The parliamentary committee has collected views from the public hearings that will help to enrich the Bill,” the minister said.
Following the tabling of the Bill more than a week ago, it has generated interest, mostly criticism over some of its provisions, as the country searches for a smooth constitutional review launch pad. Critics argue that the Bill has given excessive powers to the President to solely determine the process, while locking out many other players, including political parties, civil society and representatives of other social groups.
They have also bitterly opposed a provision in the Bill to blacklist for debate, the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar, and the presidency, while some people, including the Zanzibar attorney general, have questioned the legality of letting Parliament review the Constitution.
Other ministers in the Zanzibar government of national unity between CCM and CUF, also complained they were not consulted when the Bill was being drafted. It was the Zanzibari officials who led a charged public rejection of the Bill early this week by the people who, in a fit of anger, tore and burned copies of the document.
Some MPs and other people have also demanded that the Bill be published in Kiswahili to enable more ordinary people to read and understand it.
Report by Mkinga Mkinga, Dodoma
Additional reporting by Lucas Liganga (Da es Salaam) and Salma Said (Zanzibar)
SOURCE: THE CITIZEN, Dar es Salaam, 14th April 2011