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Amupanda petitions against rushed bills

Attempts by the National Assembly (NA) to enact 13 critical bills in record time may be placed on hold after activist Job Amupanda brought an urgent petition to halt the legislative process.

This follows Cabinet ministers tabling proposals that needed to be passed by the end of the month to avoid Namibia being greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

On Thursday, Swapo party chief whip Hamunyera Hambyuka moved for the NA to postpone debates on all subjects other than urgent amendments and bills beginning today.

Speaker Peter Katjavivi said this was decided at the meeting of the chief whips and the committee on standing rules and orders, and internal arrangements on Wednesday.

It was further agreed that parliament would sit today to consider the bills.

Katjavivi was referring to the bills tabled by Cabinet ministers which must be passed by both the NA and the National Council by 30 June.

However, parliament will now have to consider Amupanda’s urgent petition to stop the debates to give parliament enough time to consider the legislation.

Parliament spokesperson Sakeus Kadhikwa told The Namibian yesterday the NA will consider the petition today.

Amupanda said it was shocking that parliament was expected to rubber-stamp the critical bills as parliament did not get enough opportunity “to comprehensively review the bills”.

“It thus stands to reason that the NA is about to pass 13 bills to affect the lives of Namibians, whom the MPs represent, completely unprepared and without informed debate. The current process should be immediately stopped forthwith, and no further rushing of bills or uninformed parliamentary debates should be allowed to take place,” Amupanda wrote in the petition.

On the table are the police amendment bill, criminal procedure amendment bill, prevention of organised crime bill, extradition amendment bill, and the international cooperation in criminal matters amendment bill. In addition, the companies amendment bill, close corporation amendment bill, virtual assets bill, prevention and combating of terrorist and proliferation activities amendment bill. Finance and public enterprises minister Iipumbu Shiimi is set to table the banking institutions bill today, which provides for foreign banking institutions to open branches in Namibia.

Shiimi and justice minister Yvonne Dausab have both recommended that these bills be passed as soon as possible in order to keep the country from being greylisted.

Greylisting places the country under increased monitoring by the FATF due to certain deficiencies in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, among others.

The Bank of Namibia has cautioned that greylisting would have a negative impact on Namibia’s financial system, impacting foreign direct investment, capital flows, and rising compliance costs.

However, Amupanda said parliament must subject these bills to a normal NA process, for instance, the Criminal Procedure Act, which “directly affects all of us, in our millions”.

“Consultation on this act, even through a bare minimum of organised practitioners or professionals at worst, cannot be underestimated.”

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah also expressed concern about rushing bills through parliament.

“When they are rushed in, you don’t have a proper dialogue and debate to make sure they are of quality. I don’t know if it’s deliberately done to ensure no discussion takes place, or if it is an issue of competence and other factors.”

Institute of Public Policy Research executive director Graham Hopwood said there is an urgent need to pass these bills, but it shouldn’t happen without proper scrutiny and debate.

“If necessary, parliament should extend its sittings or even sit in the evenings to ensure these bills are properly debated.”