Statement By Mirriam Chonya MP Of Kafue On The National Dialogue Forum

As people may be aware, the National Dialogue Forum is expected to commence sittings today. The Forum has been constituted in line with the National Dialogue Act, which Act was passed by parliament during the last sitting.

At Bill stage, it was not supported by many stakeholders, among them some government ministries, due to a number of flaws and the Committee on Legal Affairs which was charged with the responsibility of scrutinising the Bill made recommendations not to proceed with the enactment of the Bill.

When the report of the Committee was brought to the House and debated upon, in line with parliamentary procedure, Government and PF members voted in support of the Bill and carried the day due to the numbers they enjoy in parliament on simple majority basis.

As an individual MP, I have, however, taken a position not to participate in the Forum for the following reasons, among others:-

1. Doing so would be operating within the confines of a law which is in conflict with the supreme law of the land, the Republican Constitution.The Act has flaws which we were concerned about and remained unresolved despite the recommendations of many stakeholders.

2. The 10-Day Forum is meant to look at Constitutional amendments, the Public Order Act, the Political Parties Bill and the Electoral Process Act. It was a submission of many stakeholders that the timeframe allocated for the exercise was inadequate, and the undertaking would therefore be another futile exercise at great national expense, which is imprudent and undesirable with our current economic situation.

3. The composition of the Forum does not inspire confidence that the result/ product will reflect the will of the majority as some of those who raised contrary views have systematically been left out of the process, among them the three mother church bodies.

4. While everyone else can resign from participating in the process, MPs are compelled to attend and cannot resign.

This is not only discriminatory but also an infringement of one’ s Fundamental Freedoms and Rights as provided for in our Bill of Rights. Given the conflict with our Republican Constitution which we swore to uphold, I there choose to stand by the Constitution.

Interestingly, the Act provides for penalties through a fine or imprisonment for a period up to six months, or both, for anyone who fails to attend or appear before the Forum when required to do so.

It further provides for a jail term for anyone influencing someone not to attend or interefering with the proceedings of the Forum for a period between 1 to 3 years!

Where is the constitutional guarantee of the Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Choice, the right to share ideas, the Freedom of Conscience, and all those rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights?

On that score, I thought I would be going against my Freedom of Conscience if I participated in a process that I do not agree with.

I hope my constituents in Kafue who might not have followed the developments will understand the position taken by their representative, which in my opinion, is in the best interest of the public.

Had it not been so, it would have been very tempting to participate and earn something for my pocket, but there comes a time when one must stand for the greater good of society and on the right side of posterity.

Hon Chonya MP – Kafue.

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