EDITORIAL: On independence of Parliament, here is a message for Speaker Mursal
EDITORIAL | It is not every day we turn our fingers to Speaker of the Lower House Mohamed Mursal. But given the circumstances, he now holds the yam, and the knife of Somalia’s future.
That is why this week it was disappointing that a meeting called to discuss Covid-19 emergencies had a sneaky agenda to debate an extension of the term of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.
It augurs ill for a House, sanctified by law to be independent, to bring in motions meant to benefit individuals through sneaky agenda or railroading legislators.
Yet this week, Mursal twice called for a meeting to debate emergency responses to Covid-19. Twice, a section of MPs demanded clarification on whether there was going to be a surprise agenda. Twice, they got banned from attending sessions of the House.
At the moment, Somalia is facing uncertainty. A president whose term expired in February hasn’t led the country into agreeing on a proper electoral term. Instead, his leadership style has been punctuated with mistrust, endless meetings, and no deal on how Somalia can get out of this.
Mursal as Speaker of the Lower House represents a collection of Somalia’s representative democracy, however weak some may see it. He came to office after Mohamed Osman Jawari resigned following pressure from then Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire in April 2018.
Jawari had been accused by the Farmaajo government of sabotaging a key legislative agenda by “violating the rules of the House.” He had to go.
Mursal, therefore, represents an upgrade to better service for the Somali people. Of course, it is possible that his appointment now seems to have been a mistake. Nonetheless, he swore to uphold the Constitution, which is why we must demand probity from him.
Mursal, whether he has political ambitions of his own or those of his allies; must remember that the House of Parliament remains a bonafide arm of government, independent of the executive, through which the people speak through and have their issues addressed. This must characterize the behavior of the House, regardless of whether the mandate of current representatives has expired or not.
That Mursal attempted to bend the rules of the House to meet the demands of Farmaajo is a signal that the House is not independent anymore. It is true Somalia’s Covid-19 wave is worrying. With an average of 120 new cases in March, reported cases have seen the tally rise to 11, 398 cases by the end of March of which 529 deaths were noted.
An urgent political solution is needed to calm the country and ensure there are sufficient security and collaboration to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine. But that solution cannot be found by bending rules, coercing stakeholders, and interfering with the independence of institutions.
Somalia’s term-ended parliament remains the only, perfect check on the executive. With Farmajo’s s failure to create and support the independence of the judiciary, only our legislators can check his overreaching hand. Mr. Mursal must not accept it to be used as a broom to sweep Somalia’s problems under the carpet.
Any deals on the elections, and whether the country agrees on extension must be agreed through dialogue where parties freely air their views without intimidation.
We look forward to the Houses of parliament working for the benefit of the people of Somalia.