Quite often one hears of parliament being referred to as a forum, but what exactly is a forum? The root of the word is the Latin ‘fores’ which means ‘without (or outside) the door’, and pertained to an enclosure surrounding a house. In its plural form (fora) the word referred in ancient Roman times to a public square or marketplace used for judicial and other business. That is according to The Oxford English Dictionary.In The United States ‘forum’ generally refers to a court or tribunal, but elsewhere and otherwise it means, generally, “a meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.” (OED)
Some of the key points to note and remember here are bound up in the ideas that persons meet for the purpose of ‘transacting business’ and, as a highly important component for so doing, seek to exchange ‘ideas and views’ on a particular issue or issues.
When our people go to the polls at general elections, they do so in order to elect persons they wish to have represent them in parliament, the highest body for the formulation of the nation’s policies and enactment of its laws. The people do not go to the polls to elect ‘ministers’, be it of this, that or the other.
Depending on the outcome of the ballots cast in an election what should happen is that the persons (or group of persons) holding the majority of seats in the ensuing parliament sit on what are known as the government benches, while those holding the minority of seats occupy the other side of parliament known as the opposition benches. Thus parliament is supposed to comprise and represent the collective will of the nation.
In order to give effect to the decisions of parliament, an executive committee is ‘selected’, authorised, and tasked with ‘executing’ those decisions. That executive committee (formally designated as ‘The Cabinet’) is led by the person who commands the support of the majority of representatives on the government side.
The very important point to note here is that ‘Cabinet’ is (or is supposed to be) subordinate to ‘Parliament’. Over the years a number of ‘self-serving’ individuals have played on the weaknesses, amorality aNd greed of certain politicians, and have ‘openly’ encouraged them to think and operate in the reverse manner, and that is a feature which has been fostered and played out across the region.
Many of us can remember that in the days of Comrades Bradshaw, Southwell, France and the many others, the parliamentary chambers were sited on a floor above that where the Cabinet room was located. It was a powerful, clear and unmistakable expression of the relative roles and status of the two bodies. Matters from Cabinet would then ‘go up’ to parliament.