SPEAKER of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini says “there is something unusual about Bill 10 which has confounded us as a nation”.

And Justice Minister Given Lubinda says Bill 10 debates will commence as soon as parliamentarians familiarise themselves with the new environment in the House.

Rendering a ministerial statement to Parliament, Thursday, Lubinda said all members of parliament wanted to debate the bill in a familiar parliament environment.

“We wish to avoid any room for speculation and suspicion arising from handling Bill 10. We wish to avoid a situation where people claim they do not understand what was happening when they were debating or voting. Remember, the claim by some people that they voted for the Constitution Amendment in 2016 because they had taken two shots of whiskey because the sitting was in the night and others claimed that they were sleepy and not concentrating on the debate. We want to avoid such occurrences as much as possible. This is especially so because some of the members have already registered apprehensions more so that the leader of opposition himself registered strong opposition,” Lubinda said.

“Sir, yesterday’s unanimous approval of my request for leave to adjourn debate on this bill is testimony to the fact that all of us gathered here in parliament are of one accord; namely to debate Bill 10 in a familiar parliament environment. Sir, allow me emphasize that the second reading stage of Bill 10 shall commence soon.”

Lubinda said there were many maneuvers by the opposition to try and stop Bill 10 from passing.

“At the time of the abrupt adjournment on 19th March, 2020, the House was considering the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 of whom I am the sponsor on behalf of government. In accordance with standing orders, the bill was therefore to be tabled at recommencement of sittings. Mr Speaker, the House and the nation at large will benefit to know that as the sponsor of the bill which was to be on the order paper of this current sitting, I was reliably informed that the uncertainty with regards to the new parliament environment was also expressed in a meeting of an important committee of parliament. The House Business Committee convened a meeting on 22nd June Monday 2020 and was attended by the following honorable Mr Speaker, the honorable two deputy speakers, her honour the Vice-President, the Chief Whip honorable Brian Mundubile, the Leader of Opposition honorable Jack Mwiimbu, Opposition Chief Whip honorable Situmbeko Musokotwane, honorable Maxwell Ng’onga, Honorable Boyd Hamusonde and honorable Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa,” said Lubinda.

“In this meeting, honorable Jack Mwiimbu raised a concern about the new environment, I am afraid he used words, close to “why don’t we hive off” this item (referring to Bill 10) from the order paper until there is some semblance of normalcy in the system (referring to the new parliament environment.) When this was brought to my attention, I inquired among a number of colleagues in parliament many of whom agreed with the concerns expressed by the leader of the opposition. I wish to state that a number of my colleague ministers were not in support of this position. Their view was that we proceed with Bill 10 and to bring it to a finality as it raised much unnecessary debate. There are many maneuvers that have been employed by those who are opposed to Bill 10 to try and stop it. Sir, it is the wish of government that all members of parliament acclimatize ourselves to the new normal parliament before we engage in debating Bill 10.”

Meanwhile, Monze Central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu raised a point of order in which he questioned whether Lubinda was in order to justify why the Speaker Matibini allowed him to defer Bill 10 in his statement.

“What has happened this afternoon is highly unprocedural. You do recall that yesterday, despite what is obtaining, you gave authority to the minister to defer it but today he has come here to justify why you allowed him to defer a bill. Is he now questioning you Mr Speaker having given him authority to defer it? Would it be now in order for us now to start questioning why you allowed him to defer it? If a bill has been deferred, it ends there until when you allow the bill to be brought back if it will ever be brought. Why should he come to justify why you gave him authority to defer the bill? It is highly unprocedural. Is he in order to speak on your behalf?” asked Mwiimbu.

In his ruling, Speaker Matibini observed that there was something unusual about Bill 10 that had confused the nation.

“Certainly he is not saying anything on my behalf. Indeed yesterday there was a request he made to defer. But I also recall that it ended at a mere request. If you have heard his statement, he has provided a preface to events leading to his request. And this is a statement he wanted to update the House on as circumstances leading to his request. I agree with you Honourable member of Monze Central that this matter in so far as the deferment is concerned, is a concluded matter. But I find this entirely innocuous. I must state by the way that there is something unusual about Bill 10 that has confounded us as a nation and I hope that sooner or later, somehow we will put this matter to a final rest. In its current form, this is the last opportunity I have given the promoters…the last meeting of the fourth session to complete business surrounding Bill 10. And I truly hope that we will bring this matter to a close,” said Dr Matibini.