Sunday December 31 2017

Parliament ought to take on an independent Speaker


By Apollo Kantinti

The person and integrity of the current Speaker of Parliament must have been tasted to the core! With all signs connoting to the decisions taken during the just concluded ‘rape’ of our Constitution, they were just benevolent ethos to the ruling party hence the statement: “We need a speaker with no party,” is befitting.

December 20 is going to go down in history as one of those that members of the Opposition and some independent MPs and yes, some of them from NRM as well, put up a spirited fight in the quest to stop the amendment of Article 102 (b) of the Constitution.
I think what Museveni has done is to make sure he captures every sector of the country, the Judiciary, the army, police and now Parliament.

For our Parliament, it is still Museveni and his well-wishers. It costs just a call away from State House and a horrible decision is taken in Parliament.

On this fateful day, the opposing members, armed with well researched ideas and a well thought out strategy, started by pointing out irregularities such as some of their colleagues who sit on more than one committee in Parliament and were involved in the drafting of the report, which contravenes the rules of procedure. They continued to point out that this issue was before courts of law and that proceeding with it would be prejudicial.

Questions arose as to the authenticity of the Certificate of Financial Implications issued and again the Speaker seemed to be determined to have the chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Committee present the majority report. Consequently, she suspended those that were trying to stand in the way of tyranny!

Should they have been even presenting the report when the same was before court? This seemed to be easy to answer since there was a precedent of the Speaker having ruled before that issues that were before court could not be debated on the floor as this would prejudice the case.

This was the same environment under which the Speaker has operated since the [Igara West MP Raphael] Magyezi Bill was first presented before the House. Even as it was passé finally, the Speaker is aware she shouldn’t have been the one on that sit during such times when you have to go for a rotten tomato because your boss wants you to give it to those he is oppressing.
The suspension itself has already attracted many legal opinions from legal minds and legislators as well.

If suspension was the pill for all those who misbehaved on that day, how about the Namuganzas who came close to throwing punches?

Why Speaker to resign from party
As has always been argued by some when it was to their convenience, Uganda’s political terrain is different and requires unique customs and tailored solutions to its challenges.

The argument is true when it comes to the Speaker presiding over the House while still subscribing to a particular party because in Uganda, many politicians have put party above country and the people. A unitary government also harnesses this.

Let’s compare our system to that of America, where, though the Speaker of the house does not resign his or her party membership, the proceedings are deemed more neutral and fair.

America has a federal system of government verses our unitary system. As a result, they have layers of accountability and federal laws as one is prone to vote in the interests of his or her constituents and not the party. For example, Democrats from southern states have been know not to vote for restrictive gun laws. In this case, it’s easier for the Speaker since they don’t necessarily vote along party lines. In our case, it’s mostly along party lines and constituents later.

All the issues raised and either shot down or explained away using questionable information as argued by the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Ms Winnie Kizza, portray the Speaker as acting in a partisan manner when it came to issues that directly affect her party.
With this in mind, our Speaker has to be excused from subscribing to a particular party.

The author is former MP for Kyadondo East