NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – President Mwai Kibaki has assured Kenyans that the Government is determined to end the culture of impunity and promote justice, reconciliation and national cohesion.
He has however urged Members of Parliament to take the lead in passing the legislation needed to deal with perpetuators of last year’s post-election violence.
The President who spoke at Safari Park Hotel on Friday at the launch of the Parliamentary Service Commission Strategic Plan appealed to lawmakers to show their full commitment to the key objectives of Agenda Four of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act.
The event doubled up as a sensitisation workshop for MPs on new Standing Orders.
"I call upon you to use your leadership positions to unite and reconcile Kenyans, as well as safeguarding their interest at all times," President Kibaki said.
The President reminded the parliamentarians to bear in mind that whatever happens in Parliament has far reaching implications on the country as a whole and its regional and international standing.
President Kibaki said their deliberations must be based on truthful information and driven by the ultimate goal of safeguarding the country’s national integrity, peace, stability and prosperity.
The President pointed out that the review of the Standing Orders would enable Members of Parliament obtain the necessary space and opportunity to put issues affecting the public before the House for deliberation.
He in particular, asked legislators to take cognisance of the fact that the review of Standing Orders had taken place when the country was about to carry out a review of the constitution and give their full support to the constitutional review exercise, in the same spirit that was demonstrated during the National Accord agreements in April last year.
President Kibaki observed with regret that while the standing orders were core to legislators’ guidance in the house, some member remained ignorant of the rules even after serving for over four years, a situation which suggests that they do not take the hand book seriously.
"We encourage all Kenyans to be true patriots who will not let the whims of political expediency come in the way of the constitutional review that is imperative at this defining moment in our country’s history," the President said.
Stressing the need for Parliament to focus on the reform agenda, President Kibaki said the creation by Parliament of the Independent Electoral Review Commission and the Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence was a clear testimony of the kind of collective commitment required of members to address reform and the challenges facing the country.
In this regard, the President called upon the tenth parliament to be at the forefront in passing legislation that would form the basis of implementing reforms in the country, especially those aimed at enhancing efficiency, effectiveness and war against corruption.
Noting that the review of the Standing Orders was necessitated by the legitimate concerns raised on various shortfalls regarding the rules of procedure in the House, the President expressed optimism that implementation of the new Standing Orders would radically improve the character and operations of the forthcoming Third Session of Parliament and the sessions thereafter.
He commended the Tenth Parliament, particularly the Committee on Standing Orders, for completing the process of reviewing the Standing Orders and challenged the MPs to learn and understand the rules and make effective use of their provisions to enhance House business, operations and uphold dignity.
President Kibaki said among the areas that the review of the Standing Orders was bound to impact include live broadcast of Parliamentary proceedings.
The President observed that that within the trial period that live broadcasts have been on air, the enthusiasm of MPs to make their contribution in the House has increased.
Said the President: "This is going to be a key feature of the Tenth Parliament and an important factor of our democracy."
The Head of state however expressed the need to entrench the relevant regulatory systems governing live broadcast of Parliamentary debates, committee proceedings and related documentations.
Other areas on which the new Standing Orders will have an impact include the structure and operations of House Committees, budgeting process, use of petitions by the public, as well as giving Members in the backbench far greater leeway in introducing bills in the House, the President said.
Saying the completion of the review of the Standing Orders was one of the reform measures and a key milestone of the Parliamentary Service Commission’s new ten-year Strategic Plan, President Kibaki assured the speaker and Members of Parliament that his Government will support the House in the realisation of its reform agenda as articulated in the Strategic Plan.
He said the new Standing Orders and other reforms within the Kenya National Assembly are of great significance as they take effect at a time when Kenyans are taking a keener interest on the performance of the House and demanding value for money.
"This is justified because we are first and foremost accountable to the electorate. Kenyans look up to us as their leaders to give them direction, inspiration, confidence and hope," President Kibaki said.
The President challenged legislators to study and memorize the house standing orders to be able to understand the rules and regulation that govern parliament procedures for meaningful contributions.
The Vice President who is the deputy leader of Government business Kalonzo Musyoka said parliament would work hand in hand with the media to keep the electorate and the public informed on operations of the House.
Mr Musyoka said that while the media was free to cover proceedings in the House and educate the public on the standing orders among other issues of public interest, adverse publicity would not be entertained.
House Speaker Kenneth Marende reminded MPs that while they had a duty to hold the Government accountable, they should also focus on making laws that take the country forward.
Mr Marende told the legislators to be visionary leaders who were morally upright.
MPs should also avoid side-shows because their conduct reflected on the dignity of the House.
Mr Marende said the new standing orders which come into effect in the third session of the 10th parliament would accord members an opportunity to bring to the house private motions without necessarily seeking leave of the House.
US Ambassador Michael Reinberger in his speech praised the Grand coalition Government for keeping Kenya on the democratic path despite the post-elections challenges and assured of his government’s support to the ongoing reforms aimed at ending the culture of impunity in the country.
The ambassador told the legislators to pass the pending bills under the National peace accord to effect institutional reforms for increased transparency and accountability in management of government affairs.