Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Two ruling party MPs abstain as majority approves controversial sport facilities’ bill

In a rare show of dissident in the House of Peoples’ Representatives whose 546 of 547 seats are filled by the ruling EPRDF and its affiliates, two ruling party Members of Parliament on Thursday abstained while the majority approved a new proclamation for the administration of sport facilities allowing alcohol ads to be placed in stadiums, while at the same time levying punishment on crimes yet to be spelled out.
Except in highly controversial cases such as the 2008 population census that put the Amhara population below official forecast, ruling party MPs sometimes openly show unquestioning support to pass cabinet sent proclamations. On Thursday however, though the alone opposition MP Girma Seifu was absent during the session, there was an opposition to the government’s agenda and it came from within.
Two MPs in their votes and few others in comments and by not voting appeared to express opposition to the new bill’s two stipulations that caused concern in the House.
Tabled to the House on July 7, 2011 when the House was about to go into recess, the approved legislation says advertisements of cigarettes and liquors with more than 12 percent alcoholic content are prohibited in the sport facilities.
“Aren’t we sending the message that the alcohol we know to be harmful to the public is ‘ok’ only because their alcoholic content is below 12 percent?” asked one ruling party MP.
Article 11 of the approved legislation levies 5,000 to 10,000 birr and between 6 and 12 months imprisonment on violations of regulations the sport commission will issue to reinforce the legislation.
“To what actions are we exactly saying the fines and punishments are due? We don’t know what the crime is but here we are writing what the punishment should be,” wondered another ruling MP.
Many other MPs also raised their hands including prominent lawyer MP Million Assefa to either express more concerns or support the bill. However, deputy speaker Shitaye Minale said there has been enough deliberation on the bill and major inputs are usually due in earlier public hearing called by the Social Affairs standing committee.
Members of the committee argued in favor of the bill stating ‘allowing the advertisement of alcohol [below 12 percent alcoholic content] is a common practice internationally’.
“There are 28 sport types in the country and the sport commission is going to issue directives to govern them. So what the legislation is doing is putting punishment on those who violate those regulations. The legislation would be unnecessarily too bulky if we include all the directives that state which wrongdoing is punishable by the fines,” said a member of the committee.
The comments and the deputy speaker’s proposal for the House to look into the matter in a follow up assessment did not satisfy many MPs who roared on the decision to vote on the bill without the amendments some recommended. Finally though, only two abstained while the majority voted in favor and few did not vote at all.
Entitled as a proclamation for the administration of sport facilities, the new bill will direct establishment, administration, regulation and protection of sport facilities which will be grouped under three standardized categories across the country.
Grade one status would go to any sport facility capable of hosting international sport competitions in addition to fulfilling other requirements which are to be set by a subsequent directive that the sport commission will soon issue. National sport competitions will have second grade status and grade three will go to those hosting intra-state contests.