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Code of conduct for MPs is a great idea

Parliament stands as an icon of a nation’s consciousness.

Elected and nominated MPs represent the best interest of the people.

They make laws and are the watchdog for public resources.

In the British tradition, which we borrowed from, Parliament is referred to as the august House to signify that it is a temple of dignity.

CORRUPTION

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has labelled it the “temple of democracy”.

However, our Parliament has earned notoriety for the bad and the ugly.

Corruption, deal-cutting, fisticuffs and indecencies have defined its character.

Many Motions have been won or lost purely on account of financial transactions or external influences.

ETHICS

Merit and public good are sacrificed at the altar of personal gain.

Cases of extortion abound, where public officers accused of financial impropriety are coerced to pay off members of watchdog committees to be let off the hook.

Matters are worse when it comes to personal emoluments as MPs routinely conspire to vote for irrational raises and defraud the public.

Against this backdrop, we are encouraged that the leadership of Parliament, together with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), have developed a code of conduct, which MPs will have to sign, outlawing corrupt and unethical practices.

ENFORCEMENT

Clearly, this was long overdue. However, it is not for lack of a code or rules that MPs indulge in corrupt and disgraceful practices.

Standing Orders exist as well as the law, which prohibits MPs from such excesses; but they are routinely ignored and there are no consequences.

Thus, it will be interesting to see how the new code will be enforced.

The Parliament must reclaim its dignity. Not only must MPs shun degrading behaviour; they must be guided by principles and conscience.

SELFISHNESS

It is absurd that parliamentary business is hardly determined on merit but by party or ethnic loyalty or inducements.

Having developed the code, Parliament must devise systems for enforcing it.

A society is worse off it has a rogue Parliament; where MPs use their positions for personal accumulation and self-aggrandisement.

The incoming Parliament provides the best chance to make a difference.

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