Speaker of Lok Sabha impressed by Seychelles’ small parliament


-She is the second woman to hold the position of Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament of India and she is Hon. Sumitra Mahajan of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Hon. Mahajan is in Seychelles to attend the 24th Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth Conference.

Meeting up with her on the sidelines of the conference on Wednesday, Hon. Mahajan said she is impressed by the progress Seychelles’ small parliament has made.

Seychelles parliament and the Lok Sabha have maintained  the good bilateral relations that already exist between the two parliaments for many years.

The National Assembly of Seychelles has benefitted in the past through training programmes, hosted by the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies and Training of the Lok Sabha, and is exploring the possibility of sending more staff there for training and capacity building in the future.


Seychelles NATION: Our President, Danny Faure, has stressed on the importance of the oversight role of Parliament to make democracy vibrant. What are your views on this?

Hon. Mahajan: Definitely it is an important role parliaments have. In democracy people choose to vote for whoever they want, be it for the majority who is running the government or for the opposition in majority to run the House so it is necessary for the parliament to play its role of oversight effectively. How the government is working should be made transparent to the people.  In a democracy the government is accountable to its people because the government is for the people, elected by the people. We also have the Public Accounts Committee which is chaired by an opposition member of parliament and it is working just like the other committees and the important thing is to ensure the government is working in the interest of the people.


Seychelles NATION: With your vast experience in politics and parliamentary affairs what can you say about the National Assembly of Seychelles?

Hon. Mahajan: I believe you have a vibrant Assembly. The situation where majority members are from the opposition parties and minority from the ruling party does happen but the important thing is that the members, in spite of their diverse views, can work together and most importantly that they know the issues affecting their constituents and they work in the national interest. I think under the leadership of Speaker Patrick Pillay, your Assembly is doing very well. There may be some difficult times but with dialogue and understanding I think you can make a lot more progress.   


Seychelles NATION: You also have a wealth of experience working with parliamentary committees, you have chaired a committee on Social Justice and Empowerment. How does the work of such a committee contribute to bring benefits and improve the condition of people in the communities?

Hon. Mahajan: It plays an oversight role over the work of the Social Justice Ministry under which fall so many programmes including for instance programmes for disabled persons, socially backward people, for women and widows… the work of the committee is important in that members conduct site visits in the communities to see how the different programmes are being carried out, how effective they are and if they are reaching the people they are destined for. In parliament we pass different Acts and approve programmes. The committee is responsible to find out if and how people in the communities are benefiting from them. The reports we produce are submitted to Parliament then to the ministry for more action. This is working well.


Seychelles NATION: With regard  to advancing women’s voices and their rights, having been in charge of the Mahila Morcha -- the women’s wing of Bharatiya Janata party -- would you say it is difficult to make women’s voices heard in Parliament and if so how do you manage to do so ?

Hon. Mahajan:  I worked in Mahila Morcha for many years. We have seen that the majority of the common women in India believe that their duty and responsibility is to their families and they focus more on looking after their families and take care of all family related issues that arise. Even though many of them want to do something to improve their condition and that of other women, their children have a right to education. Women have their own thinking power and they are the ones who decide when to make these decisions but I must admit that it can be difficult for women to get a chance to take part in politics and their chances to contest an election is limited. But even though the number of women who make it in parliament are very limited, when they do enter parliament they work with more commitment and passion because they have a better knowledge and understanding of all the social issues affecting women, families and the downtrodden in society. But I believe more should be done to improve and increase the chances for more women to join parliament.


Seychelles NATION: Seychelles has a small parliament compared to other countries of the world. What can you say about its development and the progress it has made to be more connected to the people?

Hon. Mahajan: Seychelles parliament has made a lot of progress over the years through what I have learnt and seen, the cohabitation process is working well in my opinion. In India this does not happen because we do not have a presidential system of government and the majority party has always run the government but I am impressed with what I have learnt of the process here as well as by the way people relate to the parliamentarians and this is good and is encouraging for the future..

Seychelles NATION: Speaker Pillay has mentioned earlier that you will be discussing further cooperation. How does the Lok Sabha plan to support the Seychelles Parliament?

Hon. Mahajan: In our parliament we have a direct telecast system so that people can see everything that the parliamentarians are doing, which bills are being debated and passed and everything else that takes place in the House.  Your parliament through the MoU we have wants to introduce the system and has requested our help and support. We also have a museum in parliament and we will explore ways in which to share our expertise with your parliament in that area.


Seychelles NATION: What are the most difficult parts about running the House?

Hon. Mahajan: Ensuring control and creating the right balance. I always feel that yes, opposition must have a say and government must have a way to get Bills through and the speaker has to balance these. I give everybody the chance to air their views but the speaker has to be always in control. But dialogue is important and I always talk to both sides separately and try to understand each of them and subsequently allow them time to talk.


Seychelles NATION: How much of a challenge is it to make sure that one party gets adequate opportunity to air its voice when the other party has a large number of seats in the parliament?

Hon. Mahajan: In our House we have a business advisory committee on which all parties are represented and this is where it is decided how the Bills are to be debated and we agree on the length of time which is then divided and allocated equally to each party.


Compiled by Marie-Anne Lepathy




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