Sort out the anomaly in Parliament urgently

Parliament Wednesday put on hold constitution of key House committees even as a group of backbench MPs were seeking to be recognised as the Official Opposition.

What this brings to the fore is that installation of the grand coalition government did not take into consideration gaps in the existing House rules.

The Standing Order and other rules and conventions allow for an Official Opposition which is generally the party with most seats on the benches to the left of Mr Speaker. For a party to qualify as the Official Opposition it must have at least 30 parliamentary seats.

The Leader of the Official Opposition enjoys special privileges and perks and is considered the opposite number to the Leader of Government Business, usually the Vice President, on the benches to the right of Mr Speaker.

With the person who would be occupying the seat of the Opposition Leader now on the Government side as Prime Minister, there is clearly a big gap on one side of the House.

This is a matter much more substantial than the issue of seating arrangements, where tradition divides the chamber halfway down the middle between the Opposition and the Government.

To start with, there is no party now that qualifies to constitute the Official Opposition. The MPs claiming the role may have more than the requisite number, but they are drawn from various parties, including those that are in the governing coalition.

There is also the issue of how vital watchdog committees, the Public Accounts and Public Investments, will be constituted.

Both are supposed to be chaired by the now non-existent Official Opposition. In composition they are also supposed to reflect the party strengths in parliament. Will the ruling coalition be considered as one party or separate parties for this purpose?

And if MPs elected on tickets of parties that are in the ruling coalition now wish to constitute the opposition, will they be recognised as such?

These are weighty issues not taken into consideration with the laws that made the grand coalition possible. They require the urgent attention of the Speaker, and if need be amendment to the relevant laws and rules to cater for a very unique situation.

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