June 5, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s national legislative assembly on Thursday refused to pass ‘Martyrs’ Funds Bill’, demanding to define its beneficiaries in a more inclusive manner. The bill shall become a legal document intended to allocate money for widows and orphans of the victims of the South Sudanese civil war for independence.
Tabled for the second reading by Alfred Wol Malith, the parliamentary chairperson for gender, child, social welfare, religious affairs, youth and sports, the martyrs’ bill if enacted into law was to help mobilize resources, improve and promote welfare of the martyrs’ families in the country.
“This will be done through soliciting funds for implementing planned programs,” said Malith in his presentation to the parliament.
Malith also limited qualification of the beneficiaries of the program to the victims of the last Sudan’s civil war between 1983 to 2005.
Members of parliament (MPs) including its leadership however argued that the bill required further scrutiny by concerned specialized committees as well as public hearing to define a martyr, orphan and widow in the several decades of collective struggle in the region.
They cited what they said were several loopholes in the language of the bill including the age of a child for the martyrs, as many are now aged, or which war could be considered to have resulted into South Sudanese martyrs.
Tulio Odongi, the government’s chief-whip, who is in charge of the ruling party (SPLM) caucus in the parliament, said the bill was not scrutinized by justice and legal committee as required by the parliamentary code of business, urging for the document to be returned to undergo the process.
“If they [MPs from justice committee] were not involved then we are sending it back to the committees so that they iron out that,” said Odongi.
“The second issue is truly for the bill to be taken for the public hearing so that people contribute effectively to the definition of who a martyr is? The values, and the areas in regards to the martyrs, this is very important,” he added.
South Sudan counts 1955 – 1972 Anyanya One war with Sudan as part of liberation history as well as the SPLM led 1983—2005 that ended with 2005 peace accord, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Referendum on self-determination, the cornerstone of the CPA, resulted to independence from Sudan in 2011.
“When we talk about martyrs, when did the war start? We will have to talk of wars that happened more than fifty years ago. That means all of us are children of martyrs,” said Aleu Ayieny Aleu, former minister of interior and MP representing Tonj county of Warrap state.
Aleu further proposed that the bill should instead be named as ‘Disabled, Widows and Orphans Funds’ to suit the current commission of War Disabled, Widows and Orphans.
Deputy speaker of parliament, Mark Nyipuoch Ubango, as a result ruled for the bill to be taken for public hearing before it would be returned to parliament for further deliberations and passing.