The new speaker of the Eastern Equatoria State Legislative Assembly, Charles Odwar Okech. (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)

New Eastern Equatoria speaker pledges open dialogue, inclusivity, and accountability

The new speaker of the Eastern Equatoria State Legislative Assembly, Charles Odwar Okech, on Wednesday, promised to ensure open dialogue, inclusivity, and accountability in the House and the state.

The new speaker of the Eastern Equatoria State Legislative Assembly, Charles Odwar Okech, on Wednesday, promised to ensure open dialogue, inclusivity, and accountability in the House and the state.

He made the remarks after taking the oath of office at Hotel Torit as the assembly hall is undergoing renovation.

This is the second time the SPLM Party is entrusting the position to Charles Odwar, the first being when the country was divided into 32 states when he served as the speaker of the now-defunct Torit State.

The Eastern Equatoria State Parliament has been on recess since late last year.

On 22 March, President Salva Kiir issued a decree revoking the appointment of two assembly members, including the former speaker, Severino Maira Janus, and Simon Lodowon Macharnyang of the SPLM Party. Kiir then appointed the new speaker and the former Kapoeta North County commissioner, Ephone Emmanul Lolimo. The latter turned down his appointment to the state parliament.

Speaker Odwar encouraged lawmakers to commit to delivering services to the people of the state.

“As your speaker, I pledge to uphold the principles of open dialogue and inclusivity because this assembly is a platform for diverse voices to be heard,” he vowed. “My commitment is to ensure that every member has the opportunity to contribute respectively or meaningfully to the legislative process of the parliament. The ultimate purpose of this assembly lies not within the wall but in the lives it touches.”

Odwar added: “Our decision must be guided by the needs and aspirations of the people we serve.”

On her part, Betty Hope Awor, the Deputy Speaker of the Eastern Equatoria State Parliament, stressed the need for transparency and accountability among leaders to avoid suspicions. She revealed that there has been a delay in passing the state budget for the 2023/2024 fiscal year which she said hinders service delivery.

“It is imperative for us in the leadership to be transparent to our people. Accountability and transparency are vital because we are suspicious of each other,” she stated. “The reason we are seeing a lot of rumors being spread on social media is because there is no transparency. If we can avoid a repeat of such, I think we shall be good to go. We did not pass the 2023/2024 budget and we do not have the Emoluments Act in place.

Meanwhile, Governor Louis Lobong Lojore said the delay in paying salary arrears and passing of the Emoluments Act is the sole responsibility of the national government. He however encouraged leaders to mobilize resources locally to ease service delivery and urged them to prioritize peace and stability.

“Delays of salaries and the issue of emoluments is not within our capacity because the responsibility for the emoluments of constitutional post holders lies with the national government and it is the president to sign it into law and not the governor,” he explained. “We can mobilize resources locally for services to the people of this state and to meet the salaries of our people. I also want you to work with the local government, state government, and the executive to ensure security for our people and peace and stability in our state.”