Thursday, February 9, 2017

Govt should handle with care arrest of MPs, Chenge advises

From left: Chadema MP Halima  Mdee (Kawe) in

From left: Chadema MP Halima  Mdee (Kawe) in tête-à-tête with Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma Urban-ACT Wazalendo)  in Parliament debating chamber just before a session in Dodoma yesterday. Looking on is Esther Bulaya (Bunda Urban-Chadema).  PHOTO | EMMANUEL HERMAN 

By Athuman Mtulya, @mtulya,

Dodoma. National Assembly chairman and Bariadi West (CCM) MP Andrew Chenge yesterday said the ongoing  trend in which lawmakers are arrested while the august House is holding meetings is  a critical matter and the government ought to act not only in accordance to the law but also wisely to avoid conflict with Parliament.

According to Mr Chenge, who is also a former Attorney General, apart from treason and murder charges all other offences that MPs may commit are bailable and therefore the police leave the lawmakers alone until Parliament is sitting and arrest them in other places.

He said that as while presiding over a House session yesterday, following a private motion on Parliamentary Immunities and Privileges tabled by John Heche (Tarime Rural-Chadema), who raised the issue of opposition MPs being arrested by police outside National Assembly premises.

Mr Heche’s statement echoed one raised on Tuesday by Kigoma Urban MP Zitto Kabwe (ACT-Wazalendo) but which was flatly rejected by Deputy Speaker Tulia Ackson who said the MPs can be only be defended by the Speaker when facing civil charges.

Mr Kabwe had told the House that he was reliably informed that he was to be arrested on Tuesday and had to leave National Assembly premises at midnight by a transport provided by House Speaker Job Ndugai to escape police arrest.

Two other opposition MPs have been arrested just outside the National Assembly gates. They are Tundu Lissu (Singida East-Chadema) who was arrested on Monday and Godbless Lema (Arusha Urban-Chadema) last November, both facing incitement charges and are still in police custody.

“The Deputy Speaker ruled on this matter yesterday (Tuesday), and her opinion is legally correct, and I am not going to dwell on that. However, the question on the table here is about parliamentary privileges, which is a critical matter, it doesn’t have to reach a time when it should be seen that the Executive through police is fighting with the National Assembly,” said Mr Chenge, adding: “The government can handle the matter more wisely, there’s no point of arresting MPs when Parliament is on session, provided the charges are not related to treason or murder. I believe police officers know each and everything about us, and if they need us they can arrest us at our houses or anywhere when Parliament is not on session.”

Mr Chenge also advised Mr Heche and the opposition camp to table the matter to the Parliamentary Immunities, Powers and Privileges Committee so that it can be officially tabled in the House for resolutions to be passed, “I’m also going to inform Speaker Ndugai on the matter for him to give more guidance.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kabwe told this paper Mr Ndugai and Clerk of the National Assembly, Dr Thomas Kashilillah, intervened on his case and consulted with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ernest Mangu and Dodoma police commander Lazaro Mambosasa on the matter.

“By midnight, the Speaker was assured by the IGP that sedition allegation  against have been dropped, and I was not going to be arrested. Mr Ndugai then sent a vehicle which took me home.”