Speaker seeks to unite divided parliament, backs live TV ban | MASWAYETU BLOG
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Monday, 15 August 2016

Speaker seeks to unite divided parliament, backs live TV ban

Speaker seeks to unite divided parliament, backs live TV ban
  •  Job Ndugai recounts his personal ordeal after a two-month hospital stay in India and says he is now ready to get back to business
THE Speaker of the National Assembly, Job Ndugai, yesterday spoke of his anguish at having to unexpectedly spend two months in hospital in India, pledging to restore unity in a parliament that became rocked by opposition boycotts and legislator suspensions during his prolonged absence.
In an interview with a local television station, Ndugai said he was shocked to learn that what he initially thought would be a routine one-week health check in India turned out to be a 60-day medical ordeal.
"When I went to India (for medical treatment), I thought I would stay there for just one week…or less than that. However, doctors advised me that they needed more time to treat me and I ended up staying there for two months.”
The 56-year old Ndugai declined to reveal the medical reason that forced him to spend two months in a hospital bed, but said he was now as fit as a fiddle.
"All I can say is that once you cross the age of 50, the body suffers many knocks and bruises. During my stay in India, I wasn't used to the hot, spicy cuisine and therefore I missed Tanzanian food a lot," he said.
Ndugai missed the majority of the National Assembly budget session earlier this year which was presided over by deputy speaker Tulia Ackson and marred by various issues, including the suspension of several opposition members of parliament and the decision of the main opposition camp to boycott the deputy speaker.
In Ndugai's absence, opposition MPs also staged protests outside the parliamentary building by holding placards and covering their mouths with duct tape as they accused Dr Ackson of muzzling them inside the House.
The speaker yesterday backed his deputy’s actions and said some opposition MPs were against her simply because she was nominated as a legislator by President John Magufuli.
"I think there is suspicion and apprehension (among some opposition MPs) because the deputy speaker is a nominated MP as opposed to being an elected lawmaker," Ndugai said.
"People are too used to the past when the deputy speaker was chosen from among elected MPs. But there is nothing wrong with a nominated MP becoming a deputy speaker as in this case," he added.
The national constitution gives powers to the president to appoint a maximum of 10 nominated members of parliament.
According to Ndugai, one of his first priorities after returning to work is to try to restore unity in the divided parliament.
He said he intends to consult some of his predecessors on what strategies to use in trying to diffuse the tension in parliament caused by the decision of opposition lawmakers to walk out on all sessions chaired by the deputy speaker.
The leader of the official opposition camp in parliament, Freeman Mbowe, has publicly accused the deputy speaker of towing the ruling party line and declared that opposition MPs prefer what he described as Ndugai's 'impartial' leadership.
But speaker yesterday roundly dismissed the opposition’s accusations and asserted that Dr Ackson has been chairing parliament sessions without favouritism.
"These are unfounded accusations…the National Assembly is run on the basis of laid down parliamentary regulations," he said.
But he also said he was "saddened" by the current divisions in parliament between ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) lawmakers and their opposition colleagues.
“Walking out of parliamentary sessions is the democratic right of the opposition MPs, but there are more amicable ways of doing things," Ndugai said.
“There is no deliberate attempt to muzzle any MP ... all those who were suspended got their punishments on the basis of the gravity of their individual offences," he said.
Regarding the controversial ban on live television coverage of parliamentary proceedings, the speaker said the decision still stands despite widespread public condemnation.
“The live broadcast prohibition has actually helped us a lot in parliament because the debates tend to be conducted in a more civil manner, when the cameras are not around," he said.
"When you bring the cameras, some MPs usually cause unnecessary drama," he added.
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