Debates: Is Oulanyah winking in the dark?

As Deputy Speaker decries the poor level of debate in the House, today we look at what solutions could be put in place to check this.

Sunday July 20 2014

Parliament in a recent session. Many critics think t

Parliament in a recent session. Many critics think the quality of debate in Parliament is partly due to the large number of MPS. PHOTO BY GEOFFREY SSERUYANGE 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

If an ambitious man winks at a pretty girl in the dark, can she see it? Is she ever going to know that the man has got the feelings for her? And what’s the point anyway?

Well, as Dr Stuart Henderson Britt, an award-winning Canadian critic, rightly puts it, if you ever tried this tactic, you certainly know what you’re doing, but nobody else does.

Dr Stuart’s narrative rhymes with the pluckiness of deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah. The criticism he normally gets, whenever things go wrong mainly because of what his boss, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga blamed on his “methods of work”, notwithstanding, Mr Oulanyah is not a ‘joking subject’.

He is courageous and on account of his “overbearing ways of doing things”, he is always the target of criticism.

Oulanyah has been labelled a ‘sycophant’ for siding with the government on controversial issues. For that matter, the MPs, including some ruling party members, abhor his methods of work.

But Oulanyah sometime last year went on KFM, a sister radio station to this newspaper, to tell his side of the story.

He told the country how Ms Kadaga sets him up to oversee the passing of controversial bills, a claim Kadaga dismissed with contempt and insisted that Oulanyah should blame himself.

In a sarcastic public letter to the Deputy Speaker, Aruu MP Odonga Otto, who at one time attempted to disorganise Oulanyah in his Omoro constituency, advised him [through the newspapers] to remove the log from his eye before removing grass from the eyes of [other] people.

But this has not stopped Oulanyah from raising serious issues. Last week, he lashed out at the new breed of well-paid mediocres in the House -- those who feed the country on shallow debates.

Oulanyah Vs Kadaga
Unlike his boss, Kadaga, who is ‘ambitious’ and a ‘populist’ who knows where is safest to jump in order to have things done without tumult in the house, Mr Oulanyah once in a blue moon talks to the press. And in spite of his icy relationship with some members, Oulanyah last week called a press conference to disparage the quality of people we send to Parliament.

Fresh from his official visit in Europe, Oulanyah warned that lack of research among MPs is seriously affecting the quality of debate in a “huge Parliament”.

Oulanyah’s concerns are not new but will help to revive the debate on whether the core constitutional function of the Legislature justifies its current size and composition.

Fortunately, people like Oulanyah understand what is at stake, particularly if we continue massaging a huge Parliament.

Oulanyah complained that many MPs are not knowledgeable about national issues such as the National Budget and legislation, blaming the pedestrian debates largely on lack of research.

He also indicated that the house is wasting a lot of time politicking instead of discussing issues that can address the urgent development needs of the country and that this explains why they prefer political discussions because they do not require a lot of input or research.

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