Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - Fears about radiation-contaminated fish imported from Japan and squabbles in the National Assembly after some parliamentarians charged the House procedures were being openly violated were leading issues in the Tanzanian media this week.
Reports on the fish, imported by a private Dar es Salaam-based company, indicated close links between the consignment and Japan’s nuclear disaster, sparked by earthquake and tsunami four months ago.
The Tanzanian government this week cautioned the public to exercise care when buying fish from local markets, lest they end up buying poisonous items.
The Guardian urged the health ministry, the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority, the Tanzania Atomic Energy Commission and law-enforcement agencies to establish facts of the matter and ensure that the country’s fish market is safe.
In addition, the private daily said persons behind the importation and sale of the deadly consignment must “face the full wrath of the law.”
“It is not enough merely exhorting fish consumers and the larger public to be “extra alert” vis-à-vis the grave danger posed by the reported filtering of the fish in question into the market.
“For one thing, it is common knowledge that not many people will be vigilant, suspicious or inquisitive enough to tell a safe buy and a purchase that could spell a catastrophe,” the paper warned.
According to the daily, talk about radiation and radioactivity causes greater fear, awe and panic than would most routine references to the sale, purchase or use of common prescription drugs.
Meanwhile, The Citizen reported that the mystery surrounding the clearance of 124.9 tonnes of the fish imported from Japan last week deepened after the importer, Alphakrust Company general manager, Ganeshan Vedagire expressed surprise at the government order to withhold the fish.
The government action came after 1.3 tonnes had been released into the market, though only 225 kilos could be withdrawn immediately.
Of particular concern, The Citizen pointed out, was how part of the consignment entered the local market without the approval or knowledge of the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA).
“This happened despite an international warning on the possibility of fish, vegetables and fruits from Japan being contaminated with radiation. In fact, many countries have banned such imports,” the paper reported
Tanzania’s Atomic Energy Commission has taken samples of the fish for testing.
Though it appreciated the warning to fish consumers in Dar es Salaam and neighbouring regions to be extra careful when buying seafood, the paper wondered if ordinary consumers were able to detect contaminated fish.
“Efforts should continue to trace, impound and destroy all contaminated fish. People in areas where the fish has been sold should be advised to undergo medical checkups and those found to have been affected by radiation be put on treatment immediately,” the paper said, adding that persons found to be directly responsible for facilitating importation of the “dangerous cargo must be taken to task for exposing the people to serious health risks.”
A Kiswahili language daily, Mwananchi, queried why the government allowed importation of fish, which was not a rare item in the country.
“Tanzania is endowed with plenty of fish in the sea and inland waters,” said the paper, lambasting authorities who were misusing their offices to turn the country into a damp of waste from other parts of the world.
According to the paper, this is an indication that corruption has so much infested Tanzania’s public institutions and money-hungry officials were misusing their position to accumulate personal wealth.
Mwananchi also called for stern measures against officials who were allowing fake and dangerous imports to enter the local market.
Turning to the ongoing session of parliament in the Tanzanian capital, Dodoma, The Guardian said the National Assembly has for the last few days “treated the public to what many have termed ‘comedy in the august House’, an incongruity, given that we expect seriousness from the members.”
The paper reported that Wednesday the public witnessed an MP being ordered out of the debate chamber for what was described as “being disrespectful”, following a heated exchange with the chair.
The following day, three MPs were given marching orders by Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai for violation of rules and etiquette of the House, because they switched on their microphones to speak before being granted permission.
“Though this is not the first time we are witnessing the developments in this parliament, the trend has the public wondering why the MPs are violating the very rules they all swore to follow to ensure an orderly running of the House business.
”It will not be far-fetched to say that the rate at which violations are occurring may in the end break previous parliament order violation records,” said the daily.
Without ruling out imperfections in the House rules of procedure, which could be the cause of the violations, The Guardian suggested that such shortfalls need to be addressed, instead of turning parliament into a place of ridicule.
The paper explained that erring MPs (all from the opposition) may have inadvertently broken the rules and procedures while seeking to offer valuable inputs in debates.
Another weakness in debates were partisan emotions even if issues being discussed were of national interest.
“The opposition is to be credited for its robust interventions on key issues, including promoting cost control. The government is now more careful, knowing that it is being closely scrutinized in its use of public resources,” The Guardian noted.
On the same issue, The Citizen described the atmosphere in parliament this week, following the ejection of some MPs from the debating chamber, as “an alarming development.”
The paper went on: “Our leaders must bring to a halt these unseemly incidents and restore the dignity of the august House. They have a responsibility to nurture public harmony,” decrying the drama pitting mainly opposition legislators and the Speaker or session chair as “a sad judgement of the state of our democracy.”
“This parliament has the longest backlog of interventions seeking clarification on standing orders, which are driven largely by unprecedented rivalry between opposition and ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party MPs.
“In addition to tarnishing the image of Parliament, the flexing of muscle during the debates is likely to spill over into the public domain and influence the behaviour of supporters of the feuding legislators.
“The prospect of contamination cannot be underestimated as the confrontations in parliament are broadcast live and displayed on the front pages of newspapers. We are slowly, but surely, building a culture of intolerance.”
The Citizen and several other Kiswahili language dailies have called on the legislators not just to show a high degree of order and discipline wherever they represent the people but also to show a sense of maturity when dealing with contentious issues.
“They have a duty to lead from the front and prove that they are truly honourable. They cannot afford to be wiser than the people who elected them and those who elected their political rivals,” The Citizen added.
-0- PANA AR/BOS 30July2011