Governments have, in and of themselves, no redeemable constitutional right. Only constitutional authority and powers incidental to governance. A government without credibility has more need to assert its authority by reference firstly, to its legislative strength and secondly, to the capacity of law enforcement agencies to ensure obedience to law and order.
A government that enjoys public confidence, however, can go about its mandate without distractive focus on authority. Obedience flows freely from respect earned and bestowed by the citizenry. Deference to powers becomes an exception to the general rule.
Critical to law and order and to long term peace and stability, is the protection of oversight institutions. So long as the public have credible electoral and dispute resolution institutions, a state would not, normally, have to resort to coercive powers or may have to do so only in exceptional circumstances. Citizens abide by the law, not because they fear punishment but because it is in their interest to do so and further, because of the existence of credible avenues of redress which offer effective vindication of their rights through peaceful means.
It is for that reason, among others, that the sanctity of the judiciary and other oversight institutions, should be honoured through respect for its independence. That extends to the integrity of institutions such as the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
The Motumise saga, the continued discontent over judicial appointments, and the controversy regarding the appointment of the Permanant Secretary to the President (PSP) President to membership of the JSC, for example, do not bode well for public confidence in the judiciary and are neither in the interest of the present administration nor the citizenry.
In the long term, failure to deal with these issues may prove to be our major undoing as a nation. A government must be secure in the goodwill of its people. That is the first touchstone for peace and security. Respect for the rule of law by government is respect for oversight institutions. That invariably ensures that the citizenry, across all political sectors and interests, unite behind it.
It is when a governments demonstrates little or no respect for the rule of law that the floodgates of anarchy are opened. A public that loses faith in oversight institutions becomes a simmering pot of discontent capable of overflowing anyday. Likewise, a public that sees state or legislative authority as a threat, as opposed to a guarantee of its freedoms is one pregnant with rebellion and anarchy.
It is important, therefore, for the present administration, and the one following, to ensure that laws are seen to be made in in the interest of the people. The one big favour this great country owes itself, on this score, is to abandon the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Parliament has a responsibility not only to pass laws but
As it stands, one must state boldly that Parliament is captured and would pass just about anything the executive wills, even if it is a genocide. It is a sad situation. Good governance must embody a futuristic outlook at the law and the national interest.
The passing of midnight legislation by Parliament in particular the EVM law was a shameful and unforgivable abdication of Parliament’s responsibility. It did not proceed from a critical analysis of a socio-economic welfare of the nation and may in the end, be a threat to national security. It issued from self-preservation by the legislators, sycophancy and nervous timidity.
In law, there are three basic rules to advocacy which I believe equally apply to governance. They are law, credibility and logic.
The present situation, and I have only mentioned a few examples, risks pushing the country into an advanced state of civil discontent for which law enforcement powers may eventually be required to ensure law and order. When government loses respect of oversight institutions, citizens lose respect for government and as a corollary, for the rule of law. Coercive powers become the insurance against loss of life and property. A government that feels safe in the capacity of its law enforcement organs against a people is called a despotic government. We are not in that state yet and it is important that we ensure that we do not ever attain that label. The application of state power must be the exception to the general rule. We can ensure that by promoting the integrity of oversight institutions such as the judiciary, the DCEC, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), among others.
Outsiders barely comprehend our success with regards to law and order and the peace for which we are universally renowned. Our police, for example, generally go about their duties unarmed. In almost every country I have visited, a firearm is part of police uniform. I attended some training with some police officers from neighbouring countries who plainly told me that in their countries, an AK47 is standard issue for police personnel and that failure by an officer to wear their firearm is a disciplinary offence. We have past administrations to thank for building the firm foundation of public confidence in our institutions. As such, we have been able to keep focus on pressing socio-economic issues affecting the lives of our people.