September 28, 2013 (WAU) - Lawmakers from South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal state assembly plan to table a motion that could see their deputy speaker impeached over alleged misconduct.
Intense lobbying, multiple sources told Sudan Tribune Saturday, is currently ongoing among MPs to have Athiang Manok Athiang removed from his position.
The deputy speaker’s woes stem from utterances he allegedly made that appeared to have undermined national legislative assembly members after they rejected Telar Riing Deng, a former justice minister appointee.
Telar, now legal advisor to President Salva Kiir, was rejected by 150 lawmakers when his fate to resume the powerful position was put to vote, after the vetting process.
However, the decision by MPs did not go well with Athiang, who allegedly described national assembly members as “crooks” and “betrayers” after they rejected the justice minister-designate.
The embattled deputy speaker, according to local media reports, also called the lawmakers "greedy” and people who were "not informed".
But statements attributed to the Northern Bahr el Ghazal deputy speaker irked national lawmakers, who convened a special session to deliberate on the matter. A 10-members committee was formed to investigate Athiang over his remarks.
In a session held on 16 September, Magok Rundial, the national assembly speaker wondered what constitutional powers Athiang held to demand for complete dissolution of parliament by Kiir.
Victor Omuho Ohide, a member of parliament from Eastern Equatoria State, who presented the motion, described as “unfortunate” the move by the Northern Bahr el Ghazal lawmaker.
“This house represents [the] supreme will of the people of South Sudan and should be respected by all. Thus, it was unfortunate that a legislator, someone familiar with the constitution and related laws and regulations could utter such insulting phrases to his fellow members of parliament”, said Ohide.
One would have been considered if these insults were uttered by a mere citizen who might not be aware of the constitution and related laws, but not a legislator, he added.
Athiang, in a 15 September statement, sounded apologetic over his earlier remarks, saying he did not deliberately intend to attack members of the national assembly, but only expressed personal views.
“As it came in the article dated 6th September 2013, in which I assaulted the National Legislative Assembly with anger words and emotions thus prompting the use of insulted wordings that were of no intention at all”, the statement, also obtained by Sudan Tribune, reads in part.
“Those words were my own and I was not writing as an entity or with the power of being a member of the Assembly, but my own opinion as a citizen of this country and I am responsible for them and will ask for pardon if I would reconsider my wording as wrong and I accept it”, it adds.
The Northern Bahr el Ghazal lawmaker further maintained that it was a “slip of the tongue” and requested national assembly lawmakers to pardon him.
“Nevertheless, dear colleagues, yes the words used were inconvenient as moved by emotions, but my opinion in rejecting Hon. Telar Riing Deng remains as the same because it was the will of the President to appoint him as minister of Justice. If you would say he is not fit in the ministry of justice why didn’t you recommend him to be relocated into another ministry?” he questioned.
His apology, he stressed, was only directed to the call he made for the president to dissolve the assembly and for describing lawmakers as “crooks” and “betrayers”.
Authorities in Northern Bahr el Ghazal have distanced themselves from the deputy speaker’s utterances, with many considering it personal and that the latter takes full responsibility.
“The government of Northern Bahr el Ghazal which includes the state legislative assembly where Athiang Manok works as Member of Parliament does not go negative on public matters, even when there are reservations. There is a way to handle public matters. They should not be handled negatively as if they are personal issues”, said a state cabinet minister, who preferred anonymity.
Such behaviours bring bad impression to the state and we do not want this to bring conflict between the institutions, he added.
The official could not comment on whether the governor Paul Malong Awan was behind the move to have the deputy speaker removed or not.
Critics, however, claim Awan could be behind the current lobbying by state lawmakers seeking majority decisions to have the assembly deputy speaker removed.
“The minister of parliamentary affairs, Ernest Mangok with Garang Majak and Akoon Diing has been approaching us all these days. They decided to call the speaker who was in Juba to return so that the motion could be tabled in her presence. This motion will now be tabled on Monday”, a legislator told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
Athiang, according to legislator, is now in the capital, Juba after learning about the plot by his colleagues to have him impeached.
“He ran away yesterday. He did not even ask for permission from the house. He left on his own. So I do not know what will happen on Monday to him, but I think members will vote to remove him”, he said.
Meanwhile, plans are reportedly underway to have the embattled deputy speaker replaced by fellow lawmaker, Garang Majak.