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Parliament committee to work on strike

4th February 2012
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  Doctorsí committee backs move
Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai

Members of Parliament yesterday failed to move Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai to allow them to debate a government statement on the doctors’ strike which has severely curtailed health services in the country.

Following the tabling of the government’s statement on the doctors’ strike by Health and Social Welfare minister Dr Hadji Mponda, MPs began shooting up to demand that the issue be debated immediately.

Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai however ruled that, in line with the principle of natural justice it would be improper and unfair doing so without getting the other side of the story – that is, hearing from the disgruntled doctors.

Accordingly, he directed the parliamentary Community Development and Social Services committee to engage doctors and other health stakeholders in talks aimed at ending the ongoing stand-off between the government and medical staff.

The legislators had pressed the Deputy Speaker to use his powers, as provided for in the parliamentary rules and regulations, to allow MPs to discuss the government statement on the strike.

Before the minister read the government statement, John Mnyika Ubungo MP (Chadema), rose and asked for the Speaker’s guidance on the matter. He said parliamentary Rule No. 46, does not allow the House to discuss a government statement issued by the Minister, but “there are options on the same Rules to enable the MPs to discuss statements.”

Besides, he said the Speaker may also use parliamentary Rule No. 5, which talks of the Speaker’s power to allow discussions on issues of importance to the nation, on the basis of the country’s Constitution and local traditional practices and customs.”

“On the basis of these grounds, the Speaker may use his/her powers to allow discussions on the issue. It is a national crisis, which touches on the welfare of millions of Tanzanians,” said Mnyika.

He described the government statement which was to be issued by the health minister “as biased and one-sided”, noting that it was “ridiculous to allow the government, the prime suspect in the strike, to issue a statement on the subject, without getting the other side of the story from the doctors. “Since, we (MPs) are representatives of wananchi, we are best placed to discuss the government statement in order to establish the truth of the matter and find solutions,” he said.

But the deputy Speaker put Mnyika’s argument on hold, promising to announce his guidance on the matter later on and allowed the health minister to read the government statement on the strike.

However, immediately after the minister’s statement, Moses Machali (NCCR-Mageuzi), stood up and asked the Deputy Speaker to allow the House to discuss the government statement.

“Given the sensitivity of the matter, we have to discuss the government statement on the doctors’ strike,” said Machali.

Outspoken MP and Deputy Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Zitto Kabwe, rose and asked for the same thing, arguing that the crisis has affects many Tanzanians and that it was unreasonable to allow the government to issue a statement without it being discussed.

Responding to MPs concerns and arguments, the Deputy Speaker said “parliamentary Rule No. 49 restricts discussions by MPs on a government stance which is presented in the House by the Minister in the form of a statement.”

“We are restricted by this rule. Maybe we should think of reviewing such rules later on. But despite such restrictions, the doctors’ strike is a sensitive issue, which must be examined critically,” he said.

By the powers vested on him, as provided for in other parliamentary rules, the deputy Speaker said the parliamentary Committee on Community Development and Social Welfare would work on the issue — serving as “negotiator” between the government and medical professionals.

He said the committee will collect views from all stakeholders and present a report in the National Assembly, urging doctors and nurses to report for work while the state organs worked on the matter.

 

Doctors contacted for comment on the Deputy Speaker’s ruling were unanimous that it promised the best way out of the raging strike, which has seriously disrupted services at several public hospitals for lack of medical staff.    

 

Briefing journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday after the National Assembly decision, the committee’s chairperson Dr Steven Ulimboka said they welcomed the decision.

“The committee and all the striking doctors are happy with the decision made by the National Assembly. We are ready to sit with the committee,” said Dr Ulimboka.

Dr Ulimboka added: “We hope the discussion will yield good results and help us reach a solution, make us resume our work and save the lives of many Tanzanians who are suffering in hospitals.”

The chairperson said the committee expects to hold a meeting with all doctors any day from today to plan how they will pursue their demands.

Earlier presenting the official statement, the health minister said the government was ready for negotiations with the medical professionals over their pay, allowances and working environment.

“The parties should reach a consensus and amicably solve this problem for the benefit of Tanzanians and the nation as whole,” said Mponda.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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