Thought and Ideas
Expelled MPs get lease of life as chaotic House takes break
Posted Sunday, October 13 2013 at 01:00
The four MPs expelled from the ruling party early this year are still fighting for their political lives.
The Supreme Court, however, threw them a lifeline to continue keeping in the House until their case is determined. Fair enough and either way the case goes in the final judgment, it will have a big implication on how parliamentary democracy plays out come 2016.
That aside, the 9th parliament now passes as a Parliament with many firsts in this country.
The first female Speaker; the first with the largest number of MPs-375; the first to have MPs who challenge a speaker’s ruling- and they take the day.
The first House to have MPs who are neither opposition, NRM nor even Independent - they sit in the middle of the House. And yes, the first Parliament to have a member literally carried shoulder high and thrown out of the House on orders of a Speaker.
In executing Parliamentary business, the relationship between the Speaker and the Members of Parliament has to be similar to that of Tango dancers.
To the contrary, the relationship between MPs, especially in the opposition, and their deputy Speaker has been of distrust and of second thought.
Oulanyah says his resolve to worship the law and the House rules is what has attracted opprobrium from MPs and the public and that someone on fifth floor keeps setting him up.
This political peek a boo and finger pointing has for the last two years been the poster child for the 9th Parliament and because of that, MPs resort to playing to their media but rarely deliver on what they promise.
The first government official to publicly denounce Parliament was Justice Faith Mwondah, who when Inspector General of Government in 2009, refused to appear before the parliamentary appointments committee for vetting, saying she couldn’t subject herself to a ‘council of the wicked’.
Mark you that ‘council of the wicked’ comprises of what can be called the House crème de la crème including the Speaker, the deputy and leader of opposition.
Over time, the public has consistently lost trust in the erstwhile better-than-the-eighth Parliament legislature with many civil society activists citing numerous initiatives that MPs have “made noise” over but never saw through to their logical conclusion. Issues like pushing for teachers and health workers’ pay rise, et al.
As Cissy Kagaba says, they always turn and answer to the master-President Museveni.
Sometimes Parliament could easily pass as a centre of political drama, otherwise how do you explain a honourable member refusing to leave the chamber as instructed and instead asks the Speaker to come lift him up?
One staff of Parliament jokingly intimidated to me that no wonder the architect of the National Theatre, just across the road, was the same fellow who designed our August House.
However, events in the House over the last two weeks exposed the 9th Parliament and also set a terrible precedent where stubborn legislators who flout House rules can quote the same rules to challenge a Speaker’s ruling.
Of course the occupants will disagree but yes, the nasty events that surrounded the suspended MPs undressed the office of the Speaker and put an end the to maxim: The Speaker is always right.
The events also exposed Parliament’s office of the clerk. That it has consistently failed to debrief the two principals about the decisions taken when the other is away. And if a Speaker or an MP finds him or herself drowning at the deep end of a political pool, they have to go and explain themselves on radio and Television.
As I argued one time in this column, “knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers” is an old saying that has been simplified by academics.
But when Lord Tennyson coined the maxim, it was not without the requisite information. Knowledge, itself a product of consistently storing in the mind a vast quantity of ideas, is not difficult to achieve. Wisdom, in a higher sphere, connotes the ability to make judgments.
Whether the Speaker’s decision to apologise on the MPs behalf was out of knowledge or wisdom is, as he himself says, for history to judge.
What is clear is that the Ibrahim Ssemujju scenario left the Speaker,s office with egg on face and also left the public wondering what type of Parliament we got.
Where did the rain start beating the 9th Parliament? Two scenarios.
When MPs decided to mortgage their souls to moneylenders hence making many of them poor and eventually self-seekers, they stopped doing things with Uganda in mind. And the day NRM took more than half of the House seats, giving it the numerical strength to wrestle away whatever interests they so wish.
The opposition, therefore, has to resort to chaos to make itself relevant and to keep afloat in the political murky waters.
But there is a lifeline - a recess full of retrospection. The MPs are now on a one-month rest albeit coming from a short recess borne out of reported misunderstandings between the Speaker and her deputy.
For Parliament to redeem its image in the remaining period, the first people to look back at their actions and put their House together should be the Speaker and deputy Speaker.
Last week, the deputy Speaker went on radio and exposed his icy relations with the Speaker when he said sometimes she sets him up to do bad things and only does them because he thinks that the ‘set up’ is a show of trust.
Now that’s not good for parliamentary democracy.