A ‘fresh’ House needs fresh ideas
Posted Sunday, February 10 2013 at 02:00
Judging from the pall of silence and the boredom in Parliament, particularly on the opening day, I am not sure whether members got time for introspection, a crucial ingredient in the life of any serious leader.
Time for action. The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Doors to the Parliamentary Chambers opened on Tuesday for the first time in five weeks. The MPs refreshed, connected with their constituents, those who went to Kyankwanzi retreat mulled over the endemic challenges facing Uganda today and I presume they are ready for another round of political gamesmanship in the House.
Judging from the pall of silence and the boredom in Parliament, particularly on the opening day, I am not sure whether members got time for introspection, a crucial ingredient in the life of any serious leader. As Myrko Thum, the author of “Personal Development that Transforms”, argues, self-reflection is one of the best methods to resolve inner conflict and gain clarity for yourself.
When MPs become aware of their failures, weaknesses, strengths, the things that are holding the country back and then tackle them by finding effective solutions, they can be relevant to the people they represent in the House.
It has been an action-packed recess - resplendent with endless drama - the good, the bad and the ugly. If this was a film based on the tales of “idiots” and “fools” in the House, then the supposition would be more or less a play which shows how sometimes wrong can triumph over right in the fight against corruption, how sometimes good acts do go unrewarded and most importantly, how good intentions are sometimes misconstrued for political reasons. In our Parliament, what you read on people’s faces is not always in their hearts.
The bungling of the political watershed has pitted the Executive against Parliament and the Speaker against the outspoken backbenchers. On account of the politics surrounding the death of Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda, lobby journalists, as well as the outspoken legislators had predicted a rousing opening day of the House. But things turned out differently on Tuesday. There was total silence in the House. The rest of that opening day and the days that followed, with exception of Thursday, were a blur.
As I left the boring chamber on Tuesday, I caught up with a group of senior members backbiting Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. They asked for my view, but I chose to be a listening post. From their discussion, it became apparent that they were not happy with the way the Speaker handled the first sitting of the House in the New Year. Some gazed in awe with dejected looks, speculating what might have happened to the “iron lady”.
They were angry that she did not allow members to debate the arrest of their colleagues. That she opted for silence as if nothing had happened.
One of the female MPs from Western Uganda faulted the Speaker for showing perilous signs of defeat in the ‘battle’ to defend the institution of Parliament from the ‘visible’ hand of the Executive.
That, instead of clarifying on why she blocked the petition to discuss the challenges to the separation of powers and the rule of law in the country, she tactically focused on “football” and “netball”. To cut a long story short, these MPs concluded that the “dark forces” are casting spells on Ms Kadaga and that she had been “tamed”.
At some point I was compelled to focus the debate on whether or not Parliament is now under the influence of a spell that prevents members from talking about the challenges our people face. I made it clear to these members that the Speaker’s Office could be part of our frivolous politics, but she is not the real problem.
I told them that the power that makes a spell work is not found in Ms Kadaga, the real power that makes a spell work dwells within MPs themselves. Parliament can still be effective without picking fights with the Executive. The double-dealers in the House are the problem: The MPs, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Our members should be honest, organised, open-minded and pro-people in playing their oversight roles.
The significance of an impending motion on the ping-pong between the Executive and Parliament, notwithstanding, Parliament needs to assess it’s relevance in a democracy. Unless Parliament identifies what is making this institution irrelevant, we are in danger of becoming a House of ridicule.
Lamentations without any practical recommendations cannot influence action. In the end, if members don’t act on their weaknesses in following up on the resolutions they make, questions to government, pending petitions and bills and statements from ministers, I’m afraid, we may end up with a “misguided missile”.
At a time like this, Ugandans expect a fresh Parliament to have fresh ideas on how to assist the Executive in dealing with the endemic challenges facing our country.
For God’s sake! How can a national Parliament waste time debating an outdated report on the state of the economy? The report presented by Kagoma MP Fredrick Nkayi Mbagadi as well as the debate itself did not make sense to Ugandans. It had already been overtaken by events. This was history yet Ugandans want a Parliament which is in touch with reality.
We are in the last half of the financial year; a useful Committee report would be assessing the performance of the budget/economy in the first half of 2012/13 financial year. Clearly, this report, which in many ways is a façade of growing deception in the House, says a lot about the quality of our MPs and their contribution to finding solutions to the problems Ugandans face.
It is sheer laziness if not lack of fresh ideas for Parliament to waste time discussing the performance of the economy in 2011/12. This is not how Parliament should be doing the oversight role. The issue is not about presenting reports, it’s about improving service delivery.