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Former UK MP Urges Caution in Political Speech

Former UK MP Urges Caution in Political Speech

According to Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Secretary-General Stephen Twigg, democracy necessitates tolerance for opposing viewpoints.

He was responding to Mukurwe-ini MP John Kagucia, who had asked how British lawmakers dealt with negative opposition politics.

The Commonwealth has urged Kenyan politicians to engage in a constructive debate that will benefit the country rather than verbal brawls that endanger peace and security.

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association secretary general Stephen Twigg stated during the ongoing Post Election Seminar 2023 for Kenyan MPs in Mombasa that democracy requires tolerance for opposing viewpoints.

He stated that legislators must have a sense of responsibility when speaking in public as representatives of the people.

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“It is critical to strike a balance in public discourse,” Twigg said.

He was responding to Mukurwe-ini MP John Kagucia, who had asked how British lawmakers dealt with negative opposition politics.

According to Kagucia, negative opposition has always been a challenge in Kenya, threatening the country’s peace and tranquility.

“As a good governance doctrine, we need a well-structured opposition that adds value to the government rather than the other way around,” Kagucia said.

Twigg, a former British MP, stated that free speech is an important part of democracy, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility.

“A healthy debate in the House is essential. “There’s no need to get personal,” the Brit pointed out.

He, on the other hand, stated that the advent of social media allows members to freely engage with their constituents, but it also has a downside when misused.

“The House is a place where we work together to encourage debate that is respectful rather than inciting. “We have a responsibility to protect democracy, and freedom of expression is part of that,” Twigg said.

The former British MP also praised Kenya’s NG-CDF as a unique concept that should be developed further to aid the country’s equitable development.

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He stated that the fund’s turmoil should serve as a wake-up call that it requires proper, law-enforced regulation.

Twigg, on the other hand, stated that it is a matter for Kenyan legislators to address.

“I heard about it the first time I came to Kenya in 2016, and it piqued my interest. But it’s something you should think about,” Twigg said.

He was responding to a question from Nyeri Town MP Duncan Mathenge, who asked for his thoughts on the doctrine of separation of powers, which he claimed has confused and has seen some apparent opposition to the fund.

The fund was once declared illegal by the court.

The two spoke at Mombasa’s ongoing Post-Election Seminar 2023.

The seminar is sponsored by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), which supports at least 18,000 legislators and more than 2.5 billion people across 56 Commonwealth governments.

“Fund administration necessitates openness, transparency, and constitutionalism. Certain criteria should govern access to these funds, according to Twigg.

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His remarks came after Kenyan MPs walked out of their committees’ induction seminar at the PrideInn Paradise Hotel last week to protest the delayed disbursement of funds.

The MPs demanded at least Sh50 million each for bursaries in their respective constituencies. Only Sh5 million had been distributed to each of the 290 constituencies by the government.

The MPs stated that they could not disburse the funds because they were insufficient.

The delay caused havoc in constituencies, with needy parents unable to send their children to school because bursaries, on which they rely, were unavailable.

However, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula intervened, and Sh4 billion was disbursed last week, with the promise of another Sh6 billion this week.

On Monday, Wetang’ula stated that the NG-CDF is here to stay and that the Executive has outlined a clear plan for disbursing CDF funds promptly so that members can deal with situations that necessitate the use of those funds.

However, he urged legislators to ensure that it is enshrined in law, noting that some Kenyans go to court to challenge constitutional issues.

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“It is incumbent on you as Members of Parliament to engage meaningfully and effectively to ensure that the annoyances you continue to receive from vexatious litigants going to court on every issue and every twist and turn to frustrate the management of public resources that help ordinary people are put to rest by ring-fencing these funds in the constitution,” Wetang’ula said.

According to him, the constitutionality of the fund is always the bogeyman of the litigations.

“Make them constitutional beyond a reasonable doubt, and the vexatious litigants will be out of business very quickly,” said the former Bungoma senator.

President William Ruto, who opened the seminar on Monday, said he does not need convincing about the importance of the NG-CDF because he has seen the difference it has made as an MP both before and after the fund was introduced.

He described the difference as “like night and day.”

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Ruto urged lawmakers to be more understanding and to work with what they had.

“I am also aware that the National Treasury has communicated its commitment to a disbursement schedule that is truly aligned with revenue projections and appropriate collection,” Ruto added.

According to the President, he does not want to overpromise and underdeliver.