Mogadishu (UM) – Today, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed will officially open Parliament with an address to its members. Parliament has just returned from its second 2 months break this year. Been an MP is one of the most well paid jobs which also comes with the largest period of holiday which the Parliamentarians give to themselves. Despite the great responsibility to serve the people of Somalia, MP’s are among the least trusted and respected group in Somalia. To many, MP’s are self interested, obsessed with Motions against the government for their own benefit and only seeking Ministerial positions. This is a tragic public perception that hurts democracy and the pursuit of good governance in Somalia.
The role of Parliament is clear and all MP’s, whether they ignore it or not, know it. Parliament should scrutinize the work of the government, make and amend laws, debate important public issues and safeguard the public interest against executive abuse. In Somalia, with the exception of a few, most MP’s lack the credibility and integrity to secure public support. This is because they let them down too many times in the past.
The overwhelming perception of the Somali MP is one of a person that hangs around the President and Prime Minister’s offices seeking a ministerial position or money and when they do not get it, threaten a Motion in Parliament. Many of the MP’s protests this perception but the failure of Parliament and the Parliamentary process to effectively represent the people and go beyond self interest has made this public view stick. The only way this can be reversed is if Parliament and MP’s work in the public interest.
In his speech to Parliament today, President Farmaajo must remind the representatives of their duty to the public. He must ask them to work closely with the government in scrutinizing and passing the Bills before them and he must remind them that the only way to resolve political disputes is not through a Motion. All past Motions have been self serving and destabilizing. If Parliament cares about the public it must use other constructive mechanism, like its many Committees, to resolve policy issues.
MP’s have to improve their disastrous public image. They can do this by cutting their annual holidays from 4 months to one. No member of the public, lucky enough to have a job can take such time off. MP’s should also pay the right amount of taxes for their salaries. Now they pay 8% despite earning among the highest amounts in a country where more than 80% if not more live below the poverty line. Those earning similar to MP’s pay 18%. This is total injustice and sets a bad precedent.
Parliament is the key symbol of Somalia’s strengthening democracy. Parliamentarians are the people’s representatives and it is time they acted like it. Fixing itself is Parliament’s first job upon its return from another long holiday.