National, News

South Sudan MP drags gov’t to regional court

By William Madouk

A member of South Sudan legislative Assembly has dragged the government to the East African Court of Justice over suspension from parliament.

Hon. Juol Nhomngek, a lawmaker representing Cueibet County, Lakes State, under the ticket of the SPLM-IO, seeks justice after the parliament Speaker Jemma Nunu Kumba threw him out of the House.

The regional court in Arusha, Tanzania, has summoned South Sudan government, represented by the Attorney General, who is also the president’s chief legal advisor to submit its defense to the accusation.

You are hereby notified that the above-named applicant has instituted a reference against you, a copy of which is annexed hereto,” reads the court summon seen by this outlet.

South Sudan government is required to file a response or written statement of defense within 45 days and failure to do so, compels the court to proceed with its verdict.

“In default of which, the reference will be heard and determined in your absence,” added the summon dated June 26 and signed by the deputy registrar.

On April 28, the Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly suspended lawmaker indefinitely in an administrative order for alleged defamation after the latter failed to apologize.

The embattled MP was suspended as per Regulation 59 of the House Conduct of Business Regulation 2011 (as amended in 2021).

The Conduct of Business Regulation 59 sub-regulation (3) states that ‘if the member refuses to apologize, the speaker may suspend him or her from the services of the house for the remainder of the session, during which time he or she will not be paid by the assembly.

Speaker Nunu earlier formed a committee to investigate the MP over alleged defamatory statements he posted on social media about her and the parliament.

And Nhomngek was given seven days by the investigation committee to apologize to the speaker, but he refused to do so, claiming such a move would compromise their role as MPs.

The MP had earlier said the order did not follow the legal process and that the investigation should not have taken place on the grounds that the speaker is not subject to defamation because she is the head of the Assembly.

He argued that Nunu was supposed to go to court because the dispute happened outside the limits of parliament.

Nhomngek claimed his suspension is revenge against him, and the speaker cannot be a judge in her own case by forming a committee to investigate and act on those results.

Hon. John Agany, spokesperson of the assembly, said they have already given instructions to the security personnel of the Assembly to deal with Juol Nhomngek, should he attempt to enter assembly premises,

MP Agany said earlier that it is up to the lawmaker to go to any court and voice out whatever grievance he has within the law.

“I heard him say in some other talks that he is going to the East African Court of Appeal to accuse the Rt. Honorable Speaker, which I believe he does not have any substantiation for,” Assembly speaker blasted.

He noted that the National Assembly does not have any regulation that refers to the East African Court of Appeal or any court.

However, on May 20, the opposition Chief Whip and Chair of the SPLM-IO parliamentary Caucus, Hon. Farouk Gatkuoth in the parliament called on the speaker to unconditionally revoke the suspension order.

He rejected the order for suspension of Hon. Nhomngek on the alleged defamation statements made by the MP against the speaker, arguing it was not in conformity with Regulations 59(1), (2), and (3) of the Conduct of Business Regulations 2011 (amended 2021).

The party official argued the regulation applied only when the statement was made inside the chamber during an ordinary or extraordinary sitting, which in this case did not happen.

The government of South Sudan is yet to respond to the court summon.

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