PARLIAMENT- Speaker Rebecca Kadaga yesterday christened Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma’s order, stopping Parliament or any individual from inquiring into the Shs6b oil cash bonanza as “stupid” and with unflinching fists declared the House sittings suspended indefinitely.
In a stormy afternoon session, Ms Kadaga pulled no punches as incensed lawmakers across the political divide roundly condemned interference in the independence of Parliament.
Ms Kadaga adjourned the House for an indefinite period and directed Attorney General, through State Minister for Justice, Mwesigwa Rukutana to immediately appeal Justice Kavuma’s “stupid” court order.
Addressing herself to the consequence of Justice Kavuma’s court order, Mr Kadaga said: “This is the first time that a court is operating in anticipation of an issue that has not even come to the House. This is an attempt to gag this House. This is an attempt to stop this House from doing its work.”
“I cannot accept a decision where court shall determine how we sit in this House. How we shall write the Order. Court is interfering in the oversight powers of the House. It is going to the core of democracy in this country. This is unacceptable. I want to direct the Attorney General to go to court and ensure that this stupid order is vacated. I want the rights of MPs fully reinstated. I adjourn the House and all Committees sine die.”
The fall-out from the presidential golden handshake, a reward to 42 top government officials continues to rumble on, the House chamber turned into a theatre of verbal wrangling as Mr Rukutuna wriggled to defend the court order amid torrid attacks from MPs.
The deputy AG put up a lone spirited defence of the “stupid” court order, barring debate on the matter.
In her ruling, Ms Kadaga put the government on notice that Parliament will be adjourned sine die (with no resumption date) until the court order is quashed on grounds that no parliamentary work can be conducted with the court order in place.
She said there will be no debate on critical business such as the 2017/18 Budget, the planned capitalisation of Uganda Development Bank (UDB) and providing money to the Petroleum Fund.
As soon as Mbarara Municipality MP Michael Tusiime had started reading his motion seeking to investigate the circumstances under which the Shs6b was shared out amongst 42 officials without the knowledge of the Auditor General, Mr Rukutuna shot up on a procedural issue and argued that there was a court order barring any debate on the matter.
Although Mr Rukutana claims the disputed court order was copied to Ms Kadaga, the Kamuli woman representative said she had not seen the purported document.
She then read out Section 4 of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act, arguing that the court order was served when Parliament was in session, making it null and void.
Ms Kadaga also questioned the authenticity of the court order, asking Mr Rukutuna whether he “believes it’s a genuine order.”
Section 4 of the Section 4 of the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act indicates that no process issued by any court in Uganda in the exercise of its civil jurisdiction shall be served or executed within the precincts of Parliament while Parliament is sitting or through the Speaker, the clerk or any officer of Parliament.
But Mr Rukutuna shot back, this time tabling a copy of the court order received by the Clerk to Parliament.
It was a stormy sitting that pitted Mr Rukutuna against the Speaker and the House.
It was a session that united the Opposition and the ruling NRM majority in defence of the autonomy of Parliament.
“On the face of it [court order], it appears genuine. I have seen a copy endorsed with a stamp of the Clerk to Parliament received by Joshua at 10:30am. I am saying this to allow the Speaker take a conscious decision on the matter we are facing,” Mr Rukutuna said, before he was shouted down by MPs.
Mr Rukutuna was not backed by any of his Cabinet colleagues, with the Government Chief Whip, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, preferring to remain silent, leaving the Attorney General to face the ire of members alone.
The State minister for Urban Development, Mr Isaac Musumba, would warn that it is illegal for a court order to be served when Parliament is sitting.
West Budama County South MP Jacob Marksons Oboth accused Mr Rukutana of being “dishonest and economical with the truth” amid cheering from legislators.
Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza attempted to move a motion without notice to censure the Deputy Attorney General but her proposal went unnoticed as MPs were caught up in legal gymnastics.
“An interim order is hereby issued restraining Parliament, any person or authority from investigating, questioning or inquiring into the impugned bonus payments and or staying all proceedings of whatever nature if any which may be pending before …. arising from the impugned payments, until the main application No. 6 of 2017 has been heard and determined,”