Lawmakers must do their share

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Lawmakers must do their share

The 18th National Assembly is turning into more of a disappointment than we could have imagined. The assembly agreed to convene a plenary session this week to wrangle over some 6,600 bills that need to be settled before our lawmakers’ four-year tenure ends in late May. Among them are bills to prevent physical violence at the National Assembly and many others directly relating to the everyday lives of ordinary people as well as national security and the economy. Disagreement among lawmakers kept the session from even opening.

A total of 14,700 bills have been put forward to incumbent lawmakers, of which 45 percent still sit pending - a record for any legislature across the globe. The bills the ruling and opposition parties have reviewed and passed in pertinent standing committee meetings also amount to 160. These bills that only require a stamping in the plenary session are at risk of being sunk.

It is unclear when they will ever see the light of day in the new assembly as legislators will have to start over from the beginning. It is wishful thinking to expect smooth legislative procedures in the coming assembly, as the ruling and opposition camp occupy nearly the same amount of seats. Debate on organizing the new assembly could go on for a while. Moreover, the legislators are likely to spend more time attacking one another ahead of the presidential election in December instead of focusing on lawmaking.

The members of the 18th Assembly therefore have an urgent role to complete the necessary legislation. The assembly has until the end of May, but lawmakers are procrastinating at the expense of the public. They are making lame excuses that the assembly will see poor attendance because of the busy schedule of newly elected lawmakers. But it is ludicrous for legislators to put off their primary role of lawmaking only for personal reasons.

The legislature must get their last act together fast. We urgently need laws allowing over-the-counter sales of simple drugs like painkillers, police to locate victims with the help of mobile phone operators, tougher actions against illegal fishing by foreign trawlers and promotions for small- and medium-sized companies. Those bills have been debated and studied thoroughly already. The assembly should convene a plenary session as soon as possible and make a strong precedent that legislation, when agreed upon by both parties in the assembly, is settled within the tenure no matter what. Time is of the essence.
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