Tight security at Parliament

Tight security at Parliament

MASERU – SECURITY at Parliament was tightened this week with visitors, including MPs, being subjected to thorough body searches.

Heavily armed police officers have conducted road blocks near the Maseru Magistrates’ Court, about a kilometre away from the Parliament building.
This meant that even those who were visiting Avani Lesotho Hotel were asked questions before they could be allowed to pass.
The tightening of security came as opposition MPs prepared to pass a vote-of-no-confidence against Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili. Mosisili lost the vote heavily yesterday.
Another road block was near the hotel gate leading to the top of Mpilo Mountain where the parliament is situated, with visitors being subjected to questioning before they were allowed to pass.

There was yet another road block on the road that leads to Qoatsaneng to the right and another straight to parliament.
Those who did not have parliament’s accreditation cards were not allowed to pass if they said they were going to Parliament, while those who had them were searched thoroughly to ensure that they did not have weapons.

The ruling Democratic Congress (DC) MP Refiloe Litjobo was not amused by the tight security. Litjobo told the Speaker of Parliament Ntlhoi Motsamai on Tuesday that he felt embarrassed when the police searched him. “I was shocked and embarrassed,” Litjobo said.
Also the Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, who is also the MP for Mount Moorosi, Thesele ’Maseribane, expressed concern over the high number of armed plain-clothed security agents in the building.

The security was so tight that last Friday Parliament’s accreditation officials handed out the accreditation cards to journalists about 300 metres away from the building.
On Friday, Speaker Motsamai had referred to the security issue as “a rather thorny issue occasionally raised by some members, complaining about excessive security measures in and around the precincts of Parliament”.

“May I right at the outset make a humble plea to you all, not to trivialise this matter, nor subject it to the political party differences in anyway whatsoever,” Motsamai warned.
She said the “issue of protection of Parliament, its members, its officials and all those who come to observe the proceedings remains the paramount responsibility of the Speaker for the benefit of the nation at large”.

She however expressed surprise that MPs were “complaining about overprotection rather than lack thereof”.
Motsamai said “we cannot turn a blind eye and pretend we are not aware of the impact and unintended consequences of the prevailing vitriolic political rivalries, where one’s political party supporters have become the arch-enemies of the other”.

“As leaders of the people, we have to rise to the occasion, do the hard and honest work of dealing with the deepening political tensions,” she said.
“We have to admit that life has thrown a curved ball at us and appreciate that unity does not fall from the sky,” she said.
Motsamai said with many years of experience, both in politics and in Parliament, she is “fully aware that in the context of Parliament, security brings into conflict two basic principles to Parliament’s tradition and usage”.

She said these basic principles that come into conflict with security are “citizenry’s participation in government and the parliamentary privilege”.
“The Office of the Speaker has always been very cautious when addressing issues of security for purposes of striking this delicate balance between the two principles,” she said.
“It is indisputable that the citizenry has the right in a parliamentary democracy to observe their legislature at work and to have reasonable access to their representatives. But at the same time, Members of Parliament also ought to work in an environment where they feel safe and at ease.”

Motsamai said it is therefore, “prudent for us to be considerate and genuine in our dealings with issues of security because Parliament as the highest institution of governance of the land deserves the highest possible security, alertness and spontaneity to possible security threats”.

She said the security threats may affect Parliament’s effective discharge of its constitutional obligations and infringe upon the enjoyment of parliamentary privileges and immunities guaranteed to Parliament by the laws of the land.

Yesterday, the police confiscated an okapi knife from one of the visitors to Parliament at the entrance to the House, on the opposition’s side.
The owner of the knife had managed to pass three roadblocks and the police at the gate until he was caught at the entrance where he had to pass through the scanners.

Staff Reporter

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