14 February 2013

Tanzania: Three IT Experts to Trace Bad Bunge Phone Text Message

THE derogatory text messages sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Anne Makinda and her deputy, Mr Job Ndugai have prompted action by the office of the parliamentary clerk currently seeking assistance from the Cyber Crime Department of the Police Force to bring proven culprits to justice.

Meanwhile, negotiations between the same office and the Tanzania Communication and Regulatory Authority, TCRA are underway, the former seeking the possibility to stop live coverage of Bunge proceedings following recent skirmishes in Parliament, which have tarnished the image of the House.

Speaking from his office in Dar es Salaam, the Tanzania National Assembly Clerk, Dr Thomas Kashililah, said that freedom of expression should not be abused and that all individuals who insulted the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker through text messages would be pursued and apprehended.

"Registration of mobile phones is likely to help in the pursuit. This will facilitate the process to track down all suspects for appropriate measures against them. No one has the right to attack the dignity of another person," Kashililah remarked. It was reported that more than 600 such text messages were sent to the Speaker, Ms Anne Makinda and a few hundreds others were relayed to the Deputy Speaker, Mr Job Ndugai.

The two were accused of taking sides with the government and allegedly suppressing the Opposition. Commenting on censorship of news broadcast from the House, Dr Kashililah said the exchange of harsh words witnessed in the February Parliamentary session were a result of deliberate violation of the Parliamentary Standing Orders.

"When asked outside the Debating Chamber why the lawmakers misbehaved despite the presence of regulations, some of the MPs admitted that they wanted to be seen by their electorate and the nation. "We are considering abolishing live TV broadcast to avoid giving awful lessons to coming generations," he explained. He added; "The proposal is either to establish a special Parliament Channel through the national television (TBC) or record all that transpires in Parliament and edit for public consumption.

"But, the proposal will be channelled to appropriate authorities for professional advice," Kashililah explained. However, Prof Hengribert Kowera of the University of Dar es Salaam said the solution was not to deny the public the right to follow live events in Parliament but to make the MPs abide by established Standing Orders and regulations. "You don't cut off a wounded leg to keep marauding flies away. You heal the wound and spare the leg.

The right to information should not be restrained. Let the MPs comply with the regulations and the rogue ones being sent out of the Debating Chamber," Prof Kowera Clarifying on two private motions tabled by James Mbatia (Appointed - NCCR- Mageuzi) on the need to have in place a comprehensive curriculum for primary and secondary schools and strategies to improve the education system and that of John Mnyika, (MP - Ubungo - Chadema) on improvement of water services in Dar es Salaam, Kashililah said procedures were observed correctly.

"Mbatia's motion was presented, discussed and decided upon through voting by legislators. A special Parliamentary probe team was formed to authenticate the genuineness of the copies of the curriculum presented in the House by the Minister of Education and Vocational Training, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa and proved its validity. There was no suppression on any particular side," he explained.

As for Mnyika's private motion, Dr Kashililah said the government made it clear that strategies to improve water services in Dar es Salaam were in place and funds have been set aside for implementation of water projects to make water shortages history by 2015. "Arguments are not a strange phenomenon in the House. There is a common saying among the Commonwealth Parliamentary member states that 'let the minority have their say and let the majority have their way.'

"The most important thing is compliance to the established rules and regulations. It is illegal, for example, to switch on the microphone and speak without the Speaker's permission," he explained. Finally, the high ranking officer flanked by the Director of Information and Communication in the Parliament, Jose Mwakasuka said change and readjustment of the parliamentary committees was done in good faith to help increase efficiency.

"The Parliamentary Public Organizations Accounts Committee (POAC) previously under Zitto Kabwe was merged with the Government's Accounts Committee. This is meant to avoid duplication, interference with other committees and facilitate assessment of the audited accounts by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) for appropriate advice. A parliamentary committee does not issue orders.

So, there is no malice in the re-arrangement of the parliamentary committee," he insisted. As for the Defence and Security Committee previously under Edward Lowassa, Kashililah said it was split into two; security and defence and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. "New committees have been formed like the Parliamentary Budgetary Committee, Aids and Illicit drugs committee, Economic Industries and Trade and others. The focus is to increase efficiency," he concluded.

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