Sunday May 15 2011

House closes business with more than 20 Bills pending

By Mercy Nalugo

The eighth Parliament officially closed business on Friday, leaving behind a number of high-profile Bills that had been expected to pass – among them the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Bill has garnered widespread international condemnation, notably criticised by Western leaders and human rights activists who have called it ‘inhuman’.
A private initiative of Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, its original form introduced the death penalty for “serial offenders” or HIV-positive people engaging in same-sex acts, as well as imprisonment for those who do not report those suspected of being gay, among others.

Adhering to international pressure, President Museveni set up a commission to investigate the implications of passing the Bill and recommended that it be withdrawn.

But Parliament being independent of government, the Bill was retained. It has since been amended to have the death penalty removed.
As soon as the Bill was listed on the parliamentary order paper, pressure in the House was high as activists filled the gallery in anticipation.

But in the end, it was not debated – along with 21 others, including the HIV/AIDS Prevention & Control Bill, 2010 the Regional Governments Bill, 2009 and the long-awaited Marriage and Divorce Bill.

Jane Alisemera, chairperson of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association, accused Attorney General Khiddu Makubuya of “killing” the Marriage and Divorce Bill, which she says has been on the backburner for 45 years.
“During our interactions with him, he said he had no problem with the document,” Alisemera said. “When Speaker Ssekandi suggested that it be debated on Wednesday, he said he was not ready for it.”

Mr Makubuya informed Parliament last week that the Marriage and Divorce Bill would not be tabled in Parliament as government was still consulting on the matter, prompting women legislators to storm out of the House. If the Marriage and Divorce Bill is passed and becomes law, it would abolish forced marriage and allow women to divorce their husbands on the basis of cruelty, among others.

The Regional Governments Bill, 2009 was right away rejected by the Mengo establishment who are calling for a fully-fledged federal system of governance.
In total, the eighth Parliament has passed 90 Bills into law and over 200 motions.

Tired Ministers?
Budadiri West legislator Mr Nandala Mafabi has called some of his colleagues “tired ministers” and blamed them for failing to pass some of the crucial Bills that remain pending.

“Many Bills have not been passed into law and I want to give a way forward. Let us decide that all Bills be passed into law and we go home,” he said.
But the state minister for Environment, Ms Jessica Eriyo, defended government saying: “It is not the Executive which has delayed the work of Parliament. On the contrary it is Mafabi and others who have been derailing us by debating things which are irrelevant.”

The eighth Parliament legislators bid each other farewell as some of them, including Ms Alisemera, are not returning to represent their people in the second multiparty Parliament. The new MPs composed of mainly young firebrands are to be sworn-in in three shifts beginning tomorrow.

The other Bills that were not passed into law included the Anti-Money Laundering Bill, 2009, the Implementation of Government Assurances Bill, 2008the Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Assets Authority Bill, 2010, the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (Amendment) Bill, 2010, the Retirement Benefits (Sector Liberalisation) Bill, 2011, The Prohibition and Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, the Retirement Benefits (Sector Liberalisation) Bill, 2011, The Anti-Counterfeiting Goods Bill, 2011, The Industrial Property Bill, 2009, The Narcotics & Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill, 2007.