As they board the bus to go meet the Party President at his home in Rwakitura tonight, MPs belonging to the ruling NRM party are vowing not to relent to Mr Museveni’s call to scrap constitutional bail.
The MPs have already defied the call by the President and last week, he threatened to take it to the masses to decide through a referendum. “Let me hope the President is not telling us about the proposal to deny bail to protestors because that one will not succeed. The proposal is against people’s human rights and there are so many oppressive laws being forced on our people which we shall not accept,” Mr Barnabas Tinkasimire, Buyaga County MP said.
President Museveni, first introduced the idea in April and while meeting his party’s newly-elected legislators at State House, Entebbe on the night of May 14, he tasked them to ensure the Constitution is amended to deny bail to any rioters and those he described as economic saboteurs.
Now, the President yesterday again summoned MPs belonging to his party for a two-day crisis meeting at his home in Rwakitura to, among others things, discuss the current economic crisis in the country and economic transformation.
This is the third time the President is summoning the MPs within a space of two months. Sources indicate that the President is perhaps seeking to bond with the new NRM MPs whom he feels are not barging to his ideas.
Speaking to Sunday Monitor, a section of the MPs said if the President brings up the call again for their support to scrap constitutional bail for certain offences, they will not relent. “In the last meeting, we told him that the move was unconstitutional and would one day fall back on us,” said an NRM MP who did not want to be named.
During the last meeting held at State House, Entebbe, the NRM legislators reportedly told the President that the proposal is unconstitutional and infringes on peoples freedom of expression and other fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
The NRM caucus Vice Chairperson, Mr David Bahati, confirmed to Sunday Monitor on phone yesterday that the legislators would have a field retreat to President Museveni’s Rwakitura farm and other farms in Kiruhura and Masaka districts with special focus on economic transformation. On whether they would endorse the proposal, Mr Bahati remained non-committal. “Regarding the bail issue we formed a committee of the caucus headed by the Prime Minister, Mr Amama Mbabazi to study the pros and cons of the proposal and how it can be applied. They will be reporting back soon,” he said without stating the date.
Commenting on the proposal, MP Theodore Ssekikubo said he will not allow the President to have a field day on the matter. “I don’t think we shall discuss that proposal but just in case it comes up, I will do what it takes to constrain the President from taking that unconstitutional path,” he said.
The proposal by the President to deny bail to demonstrators has attracted criticism and condemnation from human rights activist, lawyers, scholars and even the Presidents’ loyalists. They argue that the proposal would reduce the powers of the Court and curtail people’s fundamental rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. The retreat comes at a time when the country is experiencing increasing cost of living, rising inflation and the continued weakening of the Shilling against major trading currencies.
Efforts by the Bank of Uganda and the Ministry of Finance to contain the situation have not helped much. The country has since March witness several demonstrations against rising food prices and strikes against the falling value of the shilling. Mr Onyango Kakoba, the MP for Buikwe North, said they would devise solutions of rescuing the falling shilling against the dollar.
On the bail law, he said there was need for wide consultations before it can be passed into law. “Parliament will need a lot of convincing because some MPs feel the law may work against them one day,” he said. MPs on Thursday rejected Mr Museveni’s statement on the current state of economy describing it as unrealistic, aloof and detached from the situation on the ground.
While the President dismissed talk about the Uganda Shilling collapsing and said a more expensive dollar should be good news for the country, the NRM MPs disagree with their leader, calling for a more holistic approach to the issues.
“We need practical solutions. This is more of a crisis which should be fully handled by the government. We must have a strategy for marketing our tourism potential in order to bring in more dollars,” Ajuri MP Obua Benson said.
Workers’ MP Teopista Nabulya Ssentongo said: “It is the responsibility of the government to provide services to the people. Let us not point at the opposition.” “The contributions (to the current economic situation) are many; we could look at the declining exports, imported inflation and the prolonged droughts,” Ms Margaret Komuhangi, the Nakasongola Woman MP, said.
Bail is a constitutional right provided for under Article 23 (6) (a) of the 1995 Constitution. It provides that a person arrested in respect of a criminal offence is entitled to apply to the court to be released on bail and the court may grant the same on such conditions as the court considers reasonable.