Rohee is in a conflict of interest situation on the Privileges Committee

Dear Editor,
The parliamentary Privileges Committee, of which Clement Rohee is a member, will meet to participate in a process to determine the powers of the National Assembly to take away the privileges of a minister. The referring of this issue, Mr Rohee’s continuation as a designated minister and his presence in parliament exercising such function coupled with the executive’s defiant position of not considering the essence of the issue have dire consequences for this nation.

The presence of Mr Rohee on the committee as a member and his attendance at the meeting where the matter to be heard affects him, threatens time-honoured principles of governance. Mr Rohee should be made to excuse himself as a member because it presents a conflict of interest situation. His presence on this committee will send a signal to the society that the person in whose hands our security is placed is not prepared to honour societal values.

Further, the government’s statement that Mr Rohee is “the best minister” when the majority of the people’s representatives say the opposite is an indictment of the administration. Simply put, this is an admission that the entire executive is lacking. As such the society is in order in its agitations to right the wrongs by holding them accountable.

Additionally, since the issue before the parliament is of Mr Rohee’s performance as Minister of Home Affairs and not as a parliamentarian, the government needs to separate his roles and address them with some degree of alacrity. An elected government and its ministers cannot alone determine their performance. That responsibility is also vested in the general society.  And in this case where the people have spoken, for the government to take the position that regardless of the evidence before it or the concerns raised it will not consider or concede and it will be their way or no way, is an affront not only to those who have spoken but also to their supporters. This behaviour is obvious in the discharge of governance and is reminiscent of acts where bullyism rules the day and acceptance is imposed through incessant unsubstantiated talking points, regurgitated and disseminated which inevitably create resignation to the wrongs. Such actions are to the nation’s detriment.

Again we witness this in the government’s recent announcement of a public sector wage increase. This is a violation of the right of public sector workers to bargain collectively through their unions. In the 11th year of transgression this government has found excuses to create societal acceptance of the violation of the workers’ right and the rule of law which enshrines the right to collective bargaining. This growing contempt for rights, the rule of law and accountability also have implications for PPP supporters who are being conditioned to accept wrongdoings once they are not directly affected; their voice has no meaning beyond giving their vote and supporting a party which wants to be allowed to do as they please, even to them.

In this society all are not playing by the same rules and all are not being held to the same standard in as much as the institutions and instruments of state require uniformity in behaviour as a prerequisite for peaceful co-existence and equitable development. And as some sections of society call on us to get past the Rohee issue, let us be reminded that if the conduct and performance of the person in whose hands we place our security are questionable then it begs the question whether by taking the stand of moving on it will not lead to supporting and enabling poor governance and lawlessness in the society.

One does not have to like an individual to respect the right of the individual or speak out on his/her behalf; neither does one have to dislike a government or public official to hold them accountable. The buying into this by citizens – influential and rank and file – has been the undoing of good governance in this society. For it behooves us to not lose sight of the fact that a concept of good governance as identified by the United Nations speaks to four major components, namely, legitimacy (government should have the consent of the governed); accountability (ensuring transparency, being answerable for actions and media freedom); competence (effective policymaking, implementation and service delivery); and respect for law and protection of human rights. As a people and member of the United Nations family we too must aspire and struggle to conform.
Yours faithfully,
Lincoln Lewis

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