Parliament 'will not ignore public views' (6.08.08)

Parliament 'will not ignore public views' (6.08.08)

Wyndham Hartley

CAPE TOWN — Four major civil society organisations yesterday warned in a letter to Parliament that statements that the Scorpions would be scrapped regardless of public opinion undermined Parliament's constitutional obligation to consider legislation on its merits.

The letter from the Helen Suzman Foundation, the Institute for Democracy in SA (Idasa), the Institute for Security Studies and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation was directed at the chairwoman of the safety and security committee, Maggie Sotyu, and the chairman of the justice committee, Yunus Carrim.

The letter triggered an urgent meeting yesterday between the groups , Sotyu and Carrim, and their National Council of Provinces counterpart Sicelo Siceka.

At a later press conference, Judith February (Idasa) and Raenette Taljaard (Helen Suzman Foundation) said the meeting was unprecedented and they were pleased with the candour with which it was held.

They said they were assured that public opinion would not simply be ignored, and would monitor the process to ensure public participation principles were adhered to.

The letter said the organisations were concerned about Sotyu's statement last week that the Scorpions would be shut down regardless of public opinion, and that the African National Congress decision at the Polokwane conference would be implemented.

"The statements are not only highly inappropriate and pre-emptive of the public participation process, thereby undermining Parliament and its constitutional obligation to the public to evaluate legislation on its merits, but also constitute a fundamental infringement of the rule of law and a breach of the principles of participatory democracy," the letter said.

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CSVR is a multi-disciplinary institute that seeks to understand and prevent violence, heal its effects and build sustainable peace at the community, national and regional levels.

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