President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday swore in members of the national commission tasked to collect views on the country’s constitution and directed them to ensure that people are given chance to air their views without restrictions or favour.
The swearing in ceremony, attended by Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein and other high profile government officials, was held at the State House in Dar es Salaam.
He said people should be given chance to give their views regardless of their ideological inclinations and understanding, insisting on tolerance and respect of other people’s views.
“This commission is for Tanzanians thus you should understand that you are responsible to all people and not the groups which forwarded your names to me,” Kikwete said.
He added: “You are not here to represent the interests of your groups, because doing so you will be denying other Tanzanians their rights.”
He said: “If you keep this in mind there will be no complaints and you will collect vibrant ideas which will result into a good constitution.”
President Kikwete urged members of the public to cooperate with the Commission so as to get a good constitution which will enhance the country’s development, ensure unity and harmony and take care of the interests of all groups in the society.
“If you have opinions, speak out don’t attack views of other people. There is no reason for people to shout down or restrict others from giving out their views,” Kikwete stressed.
He said Tanzanians should prepare themselves well on issues which they want to be discussed in the process of reviewing the constitution.
“People should not feel shy to air their views even if they differ from one another,” Kikwete said.
He said that apart from the chance for individuals to give their opinions, views can also be channeled through interest groups.
Kikwete further said that the constitution review process was not about retaining or dissolving the Union, rather a process of finding better ways of consolidating it.
He said: It is a process about running our country more efficiently, recognising basic rights and finding better ways of protecting them.
President Kikwete highlighted some areas where people can give views like how to improve the activities of the three pillars of the state, i.e. the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary, the issue of 50/50 representation between men and women and private candidature in elections.
Earlier President Kikwete clarified that the swearing date which was set for April 30 this year, was re-scheduled following a request by members who needed appointment letters to submit to their employers to secure permission from duty.
The president said the Commission’s work will take 18 months, starting May 1, this year.
For his part, Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein urged Tanzanians to understand the importance of the exercise of collecting views and writing a new constitution, stressing that it is the responsibility of all people and the government to support the commission’s effort in achieving the intended objective.
He said the country’s development dynamics keep changing in social, economic and political fields, thus the new constitution should enhance these developments at all levels.
Dr Shein advised religious leaders and local government officials to help the commission in educating people and preparing them to air their opinions freely before the commission.
“This commission is for all Tanzanians. We should support it for the benefit of the people and the country,” he said.
On Friday last week President Jakaya Kikwete named the commission members who comprise former Prime Minister and Attorney General Joseph Sinde Warioba as Chairman of the commission and retired Chief Justice Augustino Ramadhani, as his Vice Chairman, as well as 30 other members - 15 from the mainland and as many from Zanzibar.
The formation of the commission follows the National Assembly’s endorsement in December last year of the Constitutional Review Bill.
The commission will be responsible for collecting the views of Tanzanians on the new “mother law”, which has a direct bearing on the future of the country.
He said the commission is expected to complete its work by October 2013 and prepare a draft document to be tabled in a Constituent Assembly for deliberation, “before being taken back to wananchi, who will then decide on it through a referendum”.