Namibia: Defence Wants Budget Discussed Behind Closed Doors

17 September 2020

DEFENCE minister Peter Hafeni Vilho says the National Assembly will for security reasons no longer be allowed to openly discuss the budget allocated to the Namibian Defence Force and for military-related spending.

Vilho made these remarks on Wednesday, when he briefed the National Assembly on how defence-related information would be handled in the future.

Vilho said from now on, information related to national security will be "kept under lock and key, away from the prying eyes of potential adversaries".

He said information related to military capabilities, the state of preparedness of the defence force, war plans, information showing the strength of the forces and development and procurement plans among other information will not be shared openly in the National Assembly.

He added that the budget to execute these development and procurement plans would also not be discussed in parliament.

He said the budget will from next year be conducted according to international standards and a parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and security will be tasked to handle discussions on it.

"It will be discussed in camera by the standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and security - which is where most of the doubts will be cleared - and it will only come into the house for reading and tabling. Trying to get answers to the above information in an open forum such as parliament is fruitless," he said.

The committee will also be tasked to deal with any other issues of national concern or national importance which arise during the course of the year.

The committee will however not be allowed to demand "to know how many rifles or hand grenades there are in the force", he said.

This will be done to prevent sensitive information from leaking to potential enemies, Vilho said.

"Within the military, it is not only that which we have that is classified, but also that which we don't have [... ] as the saying goes, if you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees," Vilho said.

He said the move does not mean debates on defence matters will completely be off limits.

The National Assembly, Vilho said, will only be allowed to debate issues related to the deployment of troops for peacekeeping operations abroad or about whether troops can be deployed domestically in the combat against the spread of the Covid-19.

"However, we cannot debate whether action should be taken against a foreign invasion or secessionism. In the event of an attack, the commander on the ground will not await orders from the CDF [chief of the defence force] before he takes action. It is on that basis that personnel, equipment and facilities deployed for national defence purposes are not debated in public," he said.

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