BY: Isaiah Abraham, JUBA, SEP. 22/2012; The debate on the national constitution has come back. The discussion is on a small scale, however as people seem to have not, much interest about the constitution debate matters while there pressing daily issues threatening their basic lives. There are real issues facing an ordinary person on our streets in our ten states, especially the liquidity problem. We must not shy to sing them here always.
Many people go these days with their pockets empty, and the future looks so bleak on that matter. The market has grown wild and people have no idea when will their economic woes end. Juba residents in particular have come to terms with trouble after another; no running water, no electricity, no medicine on the selves, not enough cash to buy high rising food commodities, no security in the suburbs of the city, no land/housing, no fuel, not enough public transport, and above all no peace of mind.
Let’s turn to what I think is an important exercise everyone should participate fully in- the constitution of the country. Here we go: South Sudan leadership has formed a Committee to review the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. This constitution was adapted on July 9, 2011 when the country became an independence entity. The text was a flip flop of the Interim Constitution of the Government of Southern Sudan, when the country was still one. Some patches were made with little changes from the original document.
There are fears that nothing will really be changed so long as the politicians are comfortable with the current structure of the text. But quick-fix constitution crumbles before everyone enjoys it, and hence necessary to give ourselves time and go through the constitution, chapter by chapter, clause by clause and item by item. It is a matter of life and death.
Someone must incorporate what people really want, not what a small group of people want or section of a region. Once the views are collected and the constitution is ready for operation, it has to go through a referendum first.
The process leading to the new constitution should have been started way back for the constitution to be finally out in January 2013. The body formed to review the constitution however has complained bitterly that it didn’t have money to start working. It looks like the issue of money has been addressed, what are these people waiting for?
In their two previous meetings we are told that the Committee was still on procedures, regulation and familiarization, how about now when the money is already out? We want the good professor to answer our people and not to expect anyone to give his group any lease of life.
Now that the real work is about to start or has just started, what are some of the envisaged problems we must do without in the Transitional Constitution of this country? Well, this writer will go straight and not to waste your precious time. I have some concerns/clauses or provisions I want them either amended, expunged or partially adapted in the next constitution. I’m not going to talk about bills of rights, they are fine.
One is this baggage body called State Lower House or whatever the name that is, formed somewhere last year. I see this House as unnecessary since there is the Upper One (National Legislative Assembly). There is no need for this country to have replica of another body when we have already representatives of the people to the Upper House. We have State Houses and other County Authorities moreover, what specific role are we expecting from this body again, something the other bodies aforesaid above couldn’t do?
If to demarcate and settle disputes between states, counties that is purely the job of the Upper House and the Executive or Judiciary, what other value could this House offer our people? This is a waste of resources and must be dropped from the new text. I’m happy Senegal has just scrapped it altogether through a vote in the National Assembly represented by both houses.
If to accommodate is the problem of the president then that time was yesterday; we are writing a permanent constitution for the country Mr. President. The number of the National Assembly must not be deluded by people whose political parties or support are nowhere.
Second, I see the president struggling to downsize his government. This must be spelt out clearly here. The government should have specific number of ministers with no assistant ministers or advisors. Assistant Ministers and Advisors are to go; they are doing literally nothing there. Their annual budget would be used by Mr. Gier Chuang to tarmac road going to Rumbek then Bentiu.
This too must be reflected in the formation of the National other bodies. Commissions are to be narrowed; Anti-Corruption must go first among those that are to be merged. This is critical if the government is serious about reform/downsizing and to save money for services. The constitution should be the ground to effect changes so the president to have an anchor. January 2013 isn’t far for a permanent constitution to take effect. So downsizing is a necessary evil that must be done.
Third, the government must introduce a Secretary to the Cabinet, somebody who could be free to run the affairs free of distractions. The current minister in the Office of the President should not be the Secretary to the Cabinet, because his schedules are overshadowed by the president’s. He has no much time to prepare reports for matters to be discuss by the ministers. In fact, the president needs no minister there, but an administrator and Mr. Mayen Wol is the right man there to do the chores for the Head of State. The constitution has to incorporate such an idea and do away with two ministers in the Office of the President.
Security can’t be a ministry; where on earth is that? How about the Attorney General, do we need that post? The answer is an affirmative! This position will help the country on numerous cases against the state as well as do prosecution on financial criminals. Issues of corruption could come here.
Forth, there has to be provision about disqualification of members of parliament. Even if elected by the people, there has to be a clause or two in which those with allegiance, obedience or adherence to foreign states are to be dismissed by the House and new election called in their respective constituencies. We have people around here who fall on that category; this clause will act as a deterrent against these people. There are those who are insolvent, those who are adjudged paranoid or senile but are still pretending to be members of parliament, they too are to be disqualified through an act in the new constitution.
Fifth, the new constitution must include a clause about the First President of the Republic. It might read like this: “the first president shall be the person who was immediately declared the Head of State on July 9, 2011”, or “a person who assumes office and declared president on July 9, 2012”. Matters of the law aren’t assumed, they must appear in white and black. President Kiir deserves this piece in the constitution. Same could be said about the ‘father of the nation’ thing. It has to be written so to avoid confusion of who should be who.
Sixth, the constitution must be specific about some requirements to fill up national jobs. Take for example the Electoral Commission Body, the head of this body requirements will have to come out clear from the constitution. The person must be a lawyer, and the list goes on. Members of that Commission also shall have similar backgrounds to avoid appointing wrong/right people on the /wrong/right places. The Chairman of the Electoral Commission am told is an engineer, and wonder who nominated him there in the first place.
Tenure of that body must be clearly provided in the constitution. I suggest that their life span should be that of the House/Parliament. Once the Assembly time is up, the same could be true to the Electoral Commission. This practice must be applied to all other constitutional posts. The span of the House should be for all. But the point is that a person must fit his/her occupation otherwise there is no point going to college to specialize.
Seventh, there has to be provision on the ‘vote of no confidence’ against the government. Parliament will have to initiate this process to allow the president to re-institute another body that will run the government until the period for election comes. We should have done this legal right against the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) if there is anything concrete in the constitution to bank on. RSS has failed our people in a very big way, and hence important to keep our check close and open for anyone who will bend to abuse the people of this country.
Eight, there has to be Judiciary Commission which shall vet or recommend to the president the appointment of the High Court Judges. In our Transitional Constitution the Judiciary matters aren’t conveniently flattened up for reasons best known to the writers of that constitution. But in this current text, terms are to be spelt out more clearly so to get rid of ambiguity. Deadwoods, people who are ticking 80 years or so, but are still clinging to their benches are to give way to fresh blood.
On the case of the Court of Appeal, the drafters of the constitution must leave no stone unturned. The new constitution must put in place strong references for smooth administration of justice.
Do we need Public Service Commission to gazette names, recruits and appoints civil servants? Yes we do for transparency purposes. The current practice of delegating that job to respective recruiting ministries is susceptible to abuses. May be the constitution needs to empower the current one and not to dissolve it.
How about armed forces, their current Act seems to have so much to do, and it is time to support them
Nine, there is this vague statement that the ‘land belongs to the community’ that must be refined and replace with a clause that would harmonize land distribution or policies. That clause has caused so much confusion in the minds of the people everywhere; something must be done in the current constitution to help people enjoy their rights in this country. The government must be allowed free hand to own and regulate the land on behalf of the people. That is why they’re representative of the people in the central in case there are infringes of rights against the people. But land Policy Act, Land Registration Act as well as Land Court Act are to be developed quickly to help in that area of land discharge and disputes.
Then there is this thing called Appropriation Act, a situation through which the Parliament gives the Treasury the go ahead to spend the approved budget. This is process always come after parliament has already passed the annual budget, and once the budget is passed, it has to go through this Act called Appropriation to make into a law. That means that no any other person whoever that be could to spend beyond what is ‘appropriated’ by the Assembly. In our case that is not followed.
The Treasury, the Presidency and others still violate the law and spend over and above what the law has delineated. In the current constitution it has to be made abundantly clear to all. We write something about our banking rules, about debts, about pension, about contingency or consolidated.
I will return next week or so about other ten concerns things. Your comments, please
Isaiah Abraham lives in Juba; he’s on Isaiah_abraham@yahoo.co.uk