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A blow to democracy

A FORTNIGHT ago parliament’s privileges and ethics committee gagged All Basotho Convention (ABC) MP Libe Moremoholo from speaking in parliament for the next 12 months.

His crime was that he allegedly leaked confidential information in a report that was yet to be tabled by parliament’s social cluster committee on health, social welfare and sports.

As part of the punishment Moremoholo was also banned from speaking to the media until December.

While we admit that it is parliament’s prerogative to rebuke any member who would have stepped out of line we are shocked by the severity of the punishment meted against the young opposition MP.

We are shocked by its harshness and timing.

By barring him from speaking in parliament the ethics committee has rendered Moremoholo almost irrelevant in the august House.

They have castrated him politically.

Of what use is an MP who can’t contribute to debate or raise motions in Parliament?

What makes it worse is that Moremoholo will also not be allowed to speak to the media.

By the stroke of the pen the ethics committee has denied the MP of his freedom of speech, which is a fundamental right.

Yet the consequences of the committee’s gag are far reaching.

Moremoholo is in parliament to represent the Likhetlane 16 constituency, the people who elected him. 

They elected him because they wanted him to be their voice in parliament so he could talk about their problems and challenges.

It therefore goes without saying that by “shutting up” Moremoholo the ethics committee is denying the people of Likhetlane 16 constituency their right to be represented and heard in parliament.

Nothing could be more unjust and undemocratic.

The committee must remember that apart from representing his constituency Moremoholo also represents the ABC party and the whole opposition constituency in parliament.

He is also the leader of the ABC youth league and by extension, represents the young people of this country in parliament. 

Banning Moremoholo has robbed these political constituencies of a significant voice in parliament.

We fail to understand how the ethics committee could have reached such an undemocratic, heavy-handed and ill-advised decision.

Because Moremoholo can’t speak to the media, either, there is no way he is going to tell the nation about problems affecting his constituencies.

For the transgression that Moremoholo is said to have made we believe the gag is a disproportionate punishment that should have no place in a democratic country that Lesotho always claims to be.

For justice to work properly, punishment must be commensurate with the crime committed.

It should be neither too severe nor too lenient but just. 

Unfortunately the ethics committee’s punishment of Moremoholo comes across as anything but just.

It has all the characteristics of an “I-got-you” kind of punishment. It’s meant to inflict pain and even politically castrate the MP.

For this and other reasons mentioned above it is wrong and should be reversed lest it sets a wrong precedence and erode the gains of our fledging but fragile democracy.

We hope good judgment will prevail.

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