UniSey and Sals students learn more about two committees of the National Assembly |25 September 2023
As part of the ongoing commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the National Assembly of Seychelles, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee and Standing Orders Committee carried out a sensitisation session with students of the University of Seychelles and the School of Advanced Level Studies.
The session, which took place at the UniSey auditorium last Friday, was attended by the members of both committees.
Members of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee present for the session were Clifford Andre (chairperson), John Hoareau (vice-chairperson), Gervais Henrie, Sathya Naidu and Wallace Cosgrow. Members Churchill Gill and Johan Loze were absent.
Members of the Standing Orders Committee present were Gervais Henrie (chairperson), Waven William (vice-chairperson), Egbert Aglae, Rosie Bistoquet, Sathya Naidu and Wilbert Herminie. Absent was Andy Labonte
Launching the session, Hon. Clifford Andre noted that this group of students were chosen specifically as the two committees deal mainly with law and procedures.
“We hope that this group of students will have a particular interest in the subject and may be will wish to join the Assembly in the future and serve on the different committees. Today we had a group of students who were paying much attention to all the presentations.”
Waven William, the longest serving member of the National Assembly, then followed with a presentation on the National Assembly.
He kicked off his presentation by stating that the existence of a National Assembly has been stipulated in the Constitution of Seychelles in article 77 and article 85. He also spoke about the powers of the NA. “The National Assembly has three fundamental roles – representative, legislative, and oversight. All three roles are exercised through detailed procedures under our constitution.”
There are currently 11 parliamentary committees and Hon. William noted that the Committee is another way through which the Assembly can play its oversight role.
The parliamentary committee is key to the function of a parliament for several reasons, one of which is that it helps the members to make more detailed investigations in matters that are complex enough and is easy to do in a smaller group rather than as an Assembly.”
Hon. William also explained that the Constitution, under Article 104, provides for the creation of necessary committees for the National Assembly to carry out its functions effectively.
Apart from the Constitution, the work of the committees is guided by Standing Orders and another document called 'The Rules of Procedures for Committees' which contains the necessary provisions for the work of the committees.
The Assembly also operates through committees. These are appointed from among members at the start of each Session of the Assembly, or at any other time agreed by the members.
Committees that continue for the whole duration of the Assembly are called Standing Committees and the committees that are temporary are called Select Committees. Assembly Committees have the same power as the Supreme Court to summon and examine witnesses.
Hon. Hoareau then followed with the presentation on the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. “The role of this specific Committee is to examine and scrutinise all published Bills or those submitted to the Committee in draft form – whether Public Bills of Private Members' Bills – and to suggest corrections, amendments, and modifications thereto; to examine and scrutinise published Statutory Instruments (SIs) before they are laid before the National Assembly; to make suggestions to government and to the Assembly for possible legislative enactment; to receive suggestions from the public in respect of published Bills or in respect of ideas for possible legislative enactment; to request submissions, whether orally or in writing, from stakeholders or members of the public on proposed or published Bills; to examine any matter referred to the Committee by the Assembly and to report to the Assembly on any Bill, legislative enactment, or other matter examined by the Committee.
“The Committee in the exercise of its powers shall not express an opinion on the merits of the policy behind any Bill or Statutory Instrument, or their objectives.”
In his presentation about the Standing Orders Committee, Hon. Henrie explained that “Standing orders are the written rules formulated, agreed and codified by Parliament to regulate parliamentary business and proceedings in accordance with the Constitution. Standing Orders (SO) can be adopted, amended or repealed by a motion. They are referred to as ‘standing’ orders as they do not lapse at the end of each session of Parliament. They continue to ‘stand’ in force from one session to the next.”
Why the need for SO in Parliament? Hon. Henrie explained that “Standing Orders regulate the conduct of business in the House including the passing of bills, rules of debate, the maintenance of Order, appointment of committees and for matters affecting the operation of the House”.
The students were able to interact with the members of the National Assembly and learnt many new things about the NA.
Naila Lespoir, a UniSey student currently following a course in Business Administration, shared that she learned a lot during the session. “The presentations were interesting and I learned that there are things happening behind the scene and the National Assembly is not what we only see on television. We learned more about the two specific committees and we were not aware about all these committees within the National Assembly. Seeing myself in the National Assembly, may be! But for now it is not something I have my sights on.
Nikita Lafortune is a Sals student and pursuing Law, Sociology and Literature as main subjects and she said she has been learning about the British parliament and “it is good for me to learn more about the Seychelles Parliament. My aim is to become a lawyer but not a politician. I got to learn lots of new things such as the various committees.
“There is a concern that not many youth are interested in joining politics and that’s why we came towards the youth to nurture the youth. We will not stay members of the Assembly for ever and even in Legislative people will change. We need successors who already have this interest and knowledge in the work that they need to do. Laws can be changed according to the context,” Hon. Henrie said.
He also shared that “the National Assembly represents the voice of the people and it is important for the youth to be conscious about the procedures and internal regulations of the NA and it reflects their needs. It is important for us to explain to the younger generation so that they also can contribute to making our Standing Orders become more effective and pragmatic for the population”.
Hon. Henrie wishes that after this session, the youth will become keener to watch the procedures of the NA and understand what is going on.
“As a field person, there is an interest among the youth from those mainly who come to visit the NA, from the districts and from the outreach programmes. I am confident that our democracy will continue to grow but I ask the youth to engage themselves on the field so that they can be empowered to take on greater responsibilities.”
Text and photos by Vidya Gappy