House in disorderOne doubts whether legislators have any intention to end the violence at the National Assembly. The procedure to punish the lawmakers who engaged in violence seems to be a smokescreen. The ethics special committee of the National Assembly has met, but no decisions have been made in the face of indifference and resistance from the ruling and opposition parties. If a system to curtail legislators’ practice of violence fails, a special law stipulating severe punishment on erring lawmakers probably won’t work, either.
The ethics special committee was established in 1991 to discipline legislators, but for 18 years, not a single offender has been punished. So this is the message: A legislator can occupy the National Assembly hall, wield a hammer and curse until he is blue in the face, but he won’t be hauled before the ethics special committee for a dressing-down.
Even if someone is summoned, the committee will bow to camaraderie and abstain from punishing a misbehaving legislator.
Aware of public criticism, the governing and opposition parties have launched missiles at each other and reported rival party members to the ethics special committee. The committee was called in but it looked helpless from the start.
An opposition party member who agreed to hold the meeting and had organized it arrived late and other members of the opposition party delayed the meeting until the organizer arrived.
Some ruling party members didn’t attend the meeting and some left before it was over. The meeting didn’t have a quorum and it became impossible to proceed. None of the eight legislators who were to be punished showed up, and the meeting has now been postponed to February.
As no one seems to trust the legislators’ ability to keep their house in order, an advisory committee on ethics was created in 2005 whose members are from outside the Assembly who can make unbiased judgments. But the committee has not held a single meeting. At a recent ethics special committee meeting, the structure of the advisory committee was mentioned but legislators said they should be careful as other legislators are involved.
The ethics special committee must form an advisory committee with neutral external members. Based on their judgment, the legislators must be punished. Legislators may shout for the violence to end, but few people believe them any longer. If legislators can’t resolve their own problems, perhaps we can only rely on people outside the Assembly to calm things down.