Lawmakers Must Enhance Competency

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A kind of bizarre incident occurred last week in the Upper House of Federal Parliament where the Minister of Industry and Commerce introduced an e-commerce bill. The minister, on the other hand, failed to distinguish between e-commerce and electricity generation and sales. Despite the bill's primary theme on e-commerce, the minister spoke at length about the importance of power production and sales in improving the economy. Surprisingly, several members of the National Assembly who debated the bill followed the minister's lead and concentrated on the nuances of power and its impact on the country's economy and GDP. They all forgot to mention matters related to e-commerce concerning the said bill.

What's more bewildering is - neither the National Assembly Chair nor any other members raised their voices to correct the minister and members who mistook e-commerce (bidhyutiya karobar) with power transactions (bidhyut byapar). This lack of interference suggested that none of the assembly members took the bill seriously, despite the fact that it was placed before the Upper House for approval, which would eventually turn it into law.

Ghastly mistake

A scenario like this is unbecoming of a parliamentary chamber held in great respect, where lawmakers are expected to discuss issues of high importance to the people and the nation. One can only imagine the ramifications for lawmakers in other countries if they made such a ghastly mistake. For making such absurd claims, they would almost certainly have to apologise to the people or quit from politics permanently. However, in our nation, political parties and their senior officials routinely protect erring or ineffective MPs that often encourage inconsistent performances in lawmakers, exacerbating the situation. This episode demonstrated that a majority of our legislators do not approach measures with the attention they deserve before presenting them to both Houses of Parliament.

Furthermore, many of them lack information on a variety of important issues and topics. While many issues deserve substantial, informed debate in the House, many politicians avoid engaging in such debates due to their lack of acquaintance with the themes. Some legislators struggle to express their opinions on important issues, displaying their inefficiency. Inefficiency appears to be a common characteristic among several of our members of parliament. It is not uncommon for them to have trouble expressing themselves when speaking in the House. Some people's communication abilities are so poor or inadequate that they even cannot read fluently written speeches and thus cannot appropriately explain their ideas. 

Why is this happening in our country's sovereign parliament? According to reports, many legislators are good at making statements about issues that interest them, but struggle to engage in detailed, serious discussions that necessitate knowledgeable involvement from legislators. This could be due to a failure to pay attention to essential concerns or a failure to educate themselves on pertinent issues on time. Meanwhile, other MPs show no interest in engaging in such debates, preferring to focus on mundane everyday topics such as development initiatives in their communities, constituencies to appeal to their voters only.

The majority of our legislators are in desperate need of orientation from their respective parties and the parliamentary secretariat. While some seek direction on how to effectively express themselves in the House during debates, others require orientation on how to articulate their opinions on specific bills, topics, and other things of significant public importance. They must be made aware that a mistake in a speech or a slip of the tongue can result in serious consequences from political analysts, the media, and their own supporters.

Furthermore, in addition to instruction from parties and secretariats, our legislators must maintain discipline and house etiquette. Several legislators frequently miss legislative sessions to pursue personal interests, and they should be reminded to attend sessions in accordance with House norms. Many House sessions are routinely interrupted due to low participation.  MPs must follow House decorum, which includes adhering to the established dress code. A female member attended a session wearing a t-shirt and pants a few months ago, leading the Speaker to rebuke her and encourage other lawmakers to follow House etiquette guidelines.

Public unhappiness

Many politicians visit the parliament only to sign the attendance book and then leave. They do so in order to obtain compensation for attending House sessions. These habits among our MPs have drawn harsh condemnation, leading to their declining national reputation. Our erring politicians must be mindful of the growing public unhappiness with their ineffective performance in the House and their behaviour that does not match to their status. Because they bear the aspirations and faith of their constituents and the entire nation on their shoulders, even slight mistakes or misbehaviour on their part can have serious ramifications for their political careers. 

Most members elected to parliament based on the proportional representation system are found to be more interested in receiving rewards than in serving as representatives of their political parties. Given all aforementioned inconsistencies in lawmakers’ performances, many people are sceptical of our legislators, who, it seems, require a lot of catching to do in order to enhance their standing in the eyes of the general public.

(Upadhyay is a former managing editor of this daily.)

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