Party rebels resisting expulsion are obtaining salaries fraudulently and must repay that too
By JACOB OKETCH
The expulsion of six jubilee senators for indiscipline has captured the nation’s attention for a variety of reasons. Though the move has been suspended by the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal ( PPDT) until some cases filed against it have been heard and determined, the issue of party discipline has become an important issue worth examining.
In 1966, when the then Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga jumped ship and formed an opposition party (KPU), the then constitutional affairs minister Tom Mboya orchestrated a series of legal steps that ultimately required that a member of Parliament who decamped from the party that sponsored them to Parliament had to relinquish their seats and seek a fresh mandate from the electorate. In what was dubbed “Little General Elections” in 1969, many MPs who had defected to KPU lost their seats.
Then came the Moi era where party discipline was strictly adhered to. In those days, there was what was called the KANU Disciplinary committee led by David Okiki Amayo.To appear before this committee was something feared, even by cabinet ministers. One could lose their position in a twinkle of an eye. It is said that some legislators went to the extent of kneeling down before members of the committee pleading for clemency. It was unthinkable to go against the party line and still survive as a Member of Parliament. What we are seeing now where legislators disobey party regulations at will could not happen then.
Fast forward to 1994 and Raila Odinga, after failing to wrestle the mantle of Ford Kenya leadership from Wamalwa Kijana opts to form his own party, the National Development Party (NDP). He resigned as MP for Langata.He then sought re-election as MP on NDP, and won. This is what lawmakers who are deemed to have left the parties that sponsored them to the August House should do. But that is largely not the case.
Earlier, ODM attempted to expel some Members of Parliament but several months down the line, these MPs are still serving and there is no sign of them leaving any time soon. There are several MPs in the current house who have parted ways with their sponsoring parties yet they are still serving as if nothing is wrong at all.
The courts play a major role in most of these situations where legislators disobey the party line. In most cases, the difficulty in removing these MPs from their seats resides in the fact that the legislators have filed cases in court to block their expulsion, or their sympathizers have done so. The many stay orders by the judges is what has made the said MPs continue serving. This state of affairs erodes certain values as far as political parties are concerned.
Since a party draws its members from the public, it is incumbent upon the public to defend the statutes of the party when it comes to gross misconduct by a Member of Parliament. The Constitution provides for the recall clause, where the electorate has the recourse-of recalling a serving MP due to a misdemenour. That is what should happen in situations where the courts have stalled the party route of expelling a serving legislator. Why the electorate is not exploiting this opportunity is something I have failed to wrap my head around.
That said, the current impunity when it comes to the conduct of legislators with regard to party disciplinary matters is something that should not be allowed to persist. A party ought to subscribe to certain ideologies. A member of that party who decamps to another is deemed to have stopped subscribing to the said ideologies. How can they continue serving under the umbrella of what they do not believe in? But sadly, in our political architecture, membership in a party based on ideologies and values is foreign language. You can imagine if the scenario played out in a country like the US where the Democratic Party and the GOP’s ideological positions are as different as day and night.
It is a high time our legislators evaluated their reasons for serving in the hallowed grounds of Parliament. It seems as if most of them are just there to earn perks that come with the job. How does one explain this constant shift of positions? Sycophancy has ensured that legislators swing to the side where their survival is guaranteed-regardless of the position of the parties that sponsored them to the seats that they hold. This kind of indiscipline is a recipe for chaos.
Parliamentary democracy is secured in the 2010 constitution and that is as it should be. Nonetheless, this constitutional privilege should not be misused by serving legislators by disobeying their party regulations and continuing to serve. That amounts to fraud. The Political Parties Act is very clear on the many issues that we are interrogating here. What we lack is strong enforcement of what is to be done.
We have to embrace discipline, especially those who are serving in leadership positions. To do otherwise is a dereliction of duty and ought to be reprimanded. Legislators are not indispensable to the rule of law and whenever they abuse the privilege given to them by the electorate. They must be ready to do the needful, vacate office.
The writer is the author of Aphorisms and Poems of Light