Death runs amock in Parliament as House loses at least 4 MPs a month

Death runs amock in Parliament as House loses at least 4 MPs a month
South Sudanese Parliament Building. [Photo: Courtesy]

Fear has gripped the national parliament as the spirit of death roams around the lonely corridors.

The nation has lost over 50 MPs between 2021 and 2022, four of them dying last month.

Illnesses and the alarming deaths of members, that sow seeds of despondency when ultra-work ethic and determination are needed in the national parliament, are now proving to be the legislature’s nightmare.

According to the deputy chairperson of the parliamentary committee for members’ affairs, ethics and integrity, Alier Samuel Ateny, the high death rate has scattered the House’s momentum in transacting business.

Ateny, who spoke to City Review about the legislators’ well-being after the adjournment of a sitting yesterday, stated that there are numerous factors contributing to high mortality rates among lawmakers.

“We have been losing members almost every month; almost every week. Members are dying accidentally and with long-term illnesses as well. Some of them have been sick for months or years, and have died as a result.

“That members are engaged in official duties today and tomorrow they are dead is in itself the parliament’s biggest worry,” Ateny said.

“Now it has affected our daily routine in the parliament and even the offices. “The sittings are very common. They could be scheduled, but then again they will be affected by the news of the deaths of a member,’’ he lamented.

Ateny recapped that since the parliament was reconstituted in 2021, an average of four MPs pass on per month. He said that the majority of the deceased were elderly legislatures who were susceptible to minor illnesses; noting that haemorrhoids and heart attacks accounted for the majority of their deaths.

Mysterious death

“With the case of Veronica and Jasmine Samuel, there was no prior warning of sickness; no headache, no nothing. For example, Veronica, the day before she died, was in a meeting with the first deputy speaker and had no complaints, but when she went home, the news that came was shocking — that she died the same as Jasmine Samuel and even Simon Digidi died early this year,” he narrated.

The siting to discuss the National Police Service bill has been adjourned twice after MPs lost their colleagues twice. Veronica Louis died on Saturday—two days after the Assembly announced the viewing of the body of former MP Eng. Sarafino Wani Suka at the parliament on Monday.

A lawmaker brought up the fact that more than 50 MPs sadly died between 2021 and 2022 during the discussion of the fiscal year budget for 2022–2023. According to Ateny, in October alone, about four MPs passed away, and one more died in Egypt.

There is no special package for MPs except for the recent $15,000 they have received as medical arrears for last year, which is half of what they are entitled to.

He alleged that the parliament is subordinated to the executive because the leadership of the parliament has delegated a junior staff to follow up on issues with the ministry of finance, making the parliament too busy. He said there is no law that is legislated to make the parliament independent, including financially.

“We have just viewed the body of our honourable member, and another one is waiting in the mortuary to be brought tomorrow. Within the period of two days, the body is here being viewed while another one is waiting in the mortuary. So, this is the condition we have. It is almost a lineup of the bodies to be viewed,” he lamented.

Ateny’s committee is tasked with looking after the well-being of the lawmakers, including their health. Ateny said that although the committee had made numerous proposals to at least create a sports facility where the MPs could work out for fitness; none of them had yet come to pass.

 “These are just proposals on paper, but no one cares about them because the general excuse is no money, and from my personal view; it is not just about money, it is about the will to do the work.”

The MPs approved their monthly emolument of SSP 800,000 for each earlier this year. But according to Ateny, they have been receiving less than SSP 600,000.

Deaths in numbers

*More than 50 MPs sadly died between 2021 and 2022 according to Ateny

*In October alone, about four MPs passed away.

*No special package for MPs except for the recent $15,000 for medical

*MPs have been receiving less than SSP600,000 out of the approved SSP800,000

*Old age and lifestyle diseases attributed to high mortality rates