Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Prof. Peter Katjavivi (right) with the visiting Finnish Speaker, Hon. Maria Lohela
|Story by George Sanzila
Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Prof. Peter Katjavivi has reiterated his call for close collaboration between the Namibian and Finnish Parliaments. Hon. Katjavivi was speaking today (24/01/18) when he received his Finnish counterpart, Hon. Maria Lohela who is on a week-long visit of Namibia together with fellow lawmakers, Hons. Pekka Puska and Olli Poika Parviainen. The reciprocal visit, seeks to deepen already existing ties between the two legislative bodies. Hon. Katjavivi visited the Finnish Parliament in October last year where he met the political leadership of that country including President of Finland Sauli Niinistö and former President and revered elder statesman, Martti Ahtisaari.
Potential areas of cooperation between the two parliaments have been identified as Finnish help in combating gender based violence in Namibia and transforming the Namibian parliament into a paperless institution colloquially referred to as e-parliament.
Katjavivi appealed for urgent support while imploring parliamentary friendship groups created by the two countries to be at the forefront of accelerating this cooperation. “I am hoping that as envisaged and briefly shared during my recent visit to Finland, our two parliaments can partner on a number of issues of common interest, these being the urgent need to combat gender based violence in Namibia and the desire to have a paperless parliament drawing on the experience and technical knowhow of Finland. I am hopeful that our parliamentary friendship groups could help us achieve this objective”, noted Katjavivi.
Katjavivi further appealed for concerted efforts by both parliaments to end the humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingya people of Myanmar, who continue to flee their homes and are now cramped in deplorable refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh for fear of persecution. “Both our parliaments are active members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and as you may recall, the issue of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar has featured prominently in recent IPU deliberations, especially during our meeting in Russia. It is my appeal that both our parliaments tirelessly continue to encourage the key players in this matter to resolve this crisis”, implored Katjavivi.
At a meeting for the Namibia - Finnish parliamentary friendship group that followed, Hon. Katjavivi revealed some of the priority focus areas for the newly created grouping. These include the assessment of legislation, ICT enhancement in parliamentary work, cooperation with the Civi Society Organisations, improving resource material for the parliament library, strengthening the effectiveness of the youth parliament and promoting tourism between Namibia and Finland. The Namibian Parliamentary friendship group is made up of lawmakers, Hons. Elma Dienda, Heather Sibungo and Steve Bezuidenhout.
Finnish Speaker, Hon. Lohela noted that the Finnish parliament has already began to embrace ICT and invited the technical staff of parliament for a benchmark visit that could help kick start the transformation of the Namibian parliament. “It is easy for us to start to work together as two parliaments. ICT has something that I have advocated for since my appointment as Speaker and we have transformed the Finnish parliament. ICT staff as professionals and people that are well placed in this whole e-parliament concept should be encouraged in this endeavor and perhaps they could embark on a visit of Finland as a learning experience”, noted Hon. Lohela.
According to Hon. Parviainen , another Finnish lawmaker accompanying the Speaker, members of parliament in that country have started to fully embrace ICT. “Digital equipment are being used more often in parliament now. We see them as a companion rather than an annoyance and they often make our work much easier”, related Parviainen.
What seems to be of concern to Hon. Speaker Lohela, who is visiting Namibia for the first time, has been the issue of double taxation she sees as a hindrance to efforts that seek to promote Finnish investment in Namibia. However it was revealed during the meeting by the ambassador of Finland to Namibia, H.E. Pirkko-Liisa Kyöstilä that Finland had handed over its updated policy on double taxation that would serve as a yardstick for discussions on the matter soon.
The Finnish delegation further visited the Minister of gender equality and child welfare, Hon. Doreen Sioka who bemoaned the escalation of gender based violence and street kids in Namibia and further appealed for Finnish help. A technical team together with the Namibian Speaker that will include officials from the Ministry of Gender is expected to expound on the issue tomorrow.