Singida East MP (Chadema) Tundu Lissu is set to appear before the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Privileges, Ethics and Powers following his refusal to retract some ‘offensive words’ appearing in a speech he delivered on Friday morning in Parliament.
Giving instructions to the committee on late Friday evening in the debating Chamber, shortly after the House had passed estimates of the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, House chairperson Jenister Mhagama said the ethics committee should assess Friday’s proceedings, including the speech made by Lissu and make recommendations on what should be done when such incidents occur in Parliament.
The wrangle surrounds the claims made by Lissu as shadow minister when delivering opposition views on estimates tabled earlier by Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Mathias Chikawe.
In his speech, Lissu who doubles as Opposition Chief Whip claimed that the appointment of some High Court judges did not follow laid down procedures, creating a loophole for having in the High Court incompetent judges.
The remarks by the shadow minister prompted Attorney General Frederick Werema to ask Lissu to retract his words in the speech since they were offending and that, according to the parliamentary Standing Orders, MPs were not allowed to interfere with the conduct of another pillar of State.
However, Lissu refused to retract his words on the grounds that the parliamentary Standing Orders governing proceedings in the House had not been followed, compelling chairperson Mhagama to forward the matter to the ethics committee.
It is not clear how the ethics committee will deal with the issue given the fact that the opposition MP represented the views of the official opposition camp in Parliament, not merely raising the matter as an MP.
However, reacting to opposition claims, Minister Chikawe said the appointment of High Court judges in the country has always followed the laid down procedures. “At no time has the appointment of High Court judges did not follow the laid down procedures,” he declared.
“I have been saddened by some remarks made by Lissu in his speech. There could be something to argue about but the manner in which he has framed his wording in the speech saddens me,” the minister intoned.
He said all High Court judges were properly vetted by the Judiciary Service Commission before making recommendations on them for appointment by the President.
In his remarks Lissu said for an individual to be appointed High Court judge he should have worked in the relevant field as magistrate or advocate for not less than ten years after being conferred a bachelor degree in laws (LLB) by a recognised university.
Also, an individual with the qualifications to be registered as advocate and has worked in the legal field for not less than ten years can be appointed by the president to the post of a High Court judge.
However, Lissu said, the above qualifications were not the sole criteria for appointment to the post as the Judicial Service Commission that is chaired by Chief Justice has to make recommendations to the president prior to appointing an individual to the position of High Court judge.
Lissu said his camp was informed that some High Court judges have been appointed by the president without following the laid down procedures.
He said all individuals to be appointed by the president as High Court judges should have been properly vetted by the Judicial Service Commission, “something that is no longer being done.”
He said some individuals appointed by the President to the post were not competent and had inadequate skills to discharge their responsibilities regarding the dispensation of justice.
According to Lissu, failure to follow the laid down procedures in appointing High Court judges has brought about failure by some appointees to properly record the course of cases at the court, hence failing to dispense justice to the parties concerned.