The Constitutional Review Commission yesterday barred government leaders from attending its meetings of collecting people’s views on the new constitution to allow ordinary people to speak without fear.
“We are appealing to government leaders not to attend the public debates on constitutional review because their presence will ruin the process and limit the freedom of the people from airing their views,” the Commission Chairman Judge Joseph Warioba told journalists.
He announced the ban in Dar es Salaam when responding to questions from reporters during a meeting with officials of the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT) and the Tanzania Editors Forum (TEF).
The chair of the 30-member Commission said the presence of government leaders in constitutional review meetings could be intimidating to the ordinary people, citing an example where a man or a woman would fear to talk about the disbanding of the District Commissioner’s post in the presence of the person holding that title.
He said although the Commission respects government leaders, it will not tolerate any signs of influencing people or making them insecure in the overall national exercise of collecting views on the constitution.
“The commission has no intention of frightening people. Let the leaders give chance to underprivileged Tanzanians to air their views,” the former Prime and First Vice President stressed.
He persuaded the wananchi to use the available chance of the commission’s mandate to collect their views to give their opinions freely on any sector of national development.
“The Constitution has legitimate organs and pillars. It has the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature. All these pillars or positions in them can be discussed freely without fear,” Judge Warioba explained.
He said government leaders know well what to talk to their people “but people, too, are familiar with the government leaders because they have been living with them all the time.” “They know the judiciary well. What is needed is to remind them what is available for them to air their views regarding this constitutional review.”
On people who don’t know Kiswahili, Judge Warioba said his Commission has been holding all meetings in that language.
“Maybe, in places where we discover that people do not know Kiswahili, then we shall have an interpreter. So this is not a problem for us and I can assure you that we have tried our best,” he said.
In May this year, Warioba asked President Jakaya Kikwete and groups of Tanzanians who proposed his name to give him and his team total independence to perform their job efficiently, free from interference.
“On behalf of the Commission, I want to assure you that we will use all our integrity and capability to implement the intended goals …we’ll ensure that we have good strategies which will enable us reach as many people as possible,” he said nearly three months ago.
He appealed to people of all social strata to turn up in big numbers to air their views and enable the Commission accomplish its task. Turning to the media, he urged journalists to participate fully in educating the public on the entire process of collecting public views.
“Knowing the Constitution and educating other people is the responsibility of all Tanzanians and not the Commission alone,” he said.