What you need to know:
- Among last week courted controversy by ordering that MPs involved in the boycott be barred from other parliamentary businesses.
Speaker of Parliament Anita Among yesterday ordered the Executive to present a comprehensive statement in the House today on the alleged grotesque rights violations in the country.
The directive, which echoed demands over the past month by Opposition lawmakers, requires the Security minister to furnish lawmakers with information in response to claims of missing citizens.
Opposition legislators staged a walk-out on October 19, and have since stayed away from plenary sitting, until the government accounts for their supporters alleged to be in secret custody of state security agencies.
Speaker Among stalled on demanding answers from the Executive, and last week courted controversy by ordering that legislators involved in the boycott be barred from other parliamentary businesses.
Such activities she outlawed for Opposition Members of Parliament included parliamentary committee sittings, inland and overseas travels and representation at inter-parliamentary sporting tournaments.
However, Ms Among appeared to have a change of heart, and pressed for accountability as the Opposition wished from the start.
“The Minister of Security wrote to me and asked for an additional one week which ended [on Monday]. I am now directing that the Executive presents a report to this House [today],” Ms Among ruled.
The remarks from Ms Among came a few hours after Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP) Mathias Mpuuga (NUP; Nyendo-Mukungwe) told a press conference that they would continue with the boycott of the House until the government explained itself on the grotesque rights breaches.
“Once that is done, Mr Mpuuga added, “then we will also commit to go to the House, listen and respond.”
Questions relating to missing Opposition supporters began surfacing before and continued during and after the 2021 elections, resulting in continuous blame games between the government and Opposition.
This forced the legislators subscribing to the Opposition to stage a boycott of plenary sittings last month, citing the Executive’s failure to address several human rights violations concerns including accounting for the whereabouts of Opposition supporters.
Members of Parliament perform their legislative and oversight roles through various ways, among them attending plenary (sitting of the whole House) and committee meeting.
Following the one month absenteeism of the Opposition legislators from the sittings, Ms Among directed that they resume attending House sittings or be excluded from other businesses of Parliament, including attending committee meetings.
The implementation of Ms Among’s order to bar Opposition lawmakers from Committee meetings, started on a confusing footing on Monday, with Mr Fox Odoi (NRM; West Budama North East) sending Mr Robert Ssekitoleko (NUP; Bumunanika) away from a committee meeting on the basis of the directive.
Mr Odoi made the decision while sitting in for the chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, Ms Robinah Rwakoojo (NRM, Gomba West).
Whereas MP Ssekitoleko obliged and exited, LoP Mpuuga told this newspaper on Monday, a proclamation he repeated at yesterday’s press conference, that the legislators he chaperons should defy anyone ordering them out of committee leaders.
“… In the same breath [I] ask and advise other chairpersons of committees to desist from appearing to be enforcing what is unenforceable, to restrain themselves from chasing away Members of Parliament from committees,” he said, adding, “They have no such power, they are acting in total disregard of the law and common-sense and [I] want to ask my Members where they find it to defy any chairperson attempting to do so.”
Mr Mpuuga emphasised that the Opposition will continue attending committee meetings and to any other related committee activities organised within or out of the confines of the Parliament.
The deputy chairperson of Parliament’s Committee of Rules, Privileges and Discipline, Fr Charles Onen (Ind; Laroo-Pece), said they won’t eject any lawmaker from a committee sitting.
“No sectoral leader or chairperson of any committee can legally stop any member from attending [meetings] because no written communication has been forwarded by the clerk to the committee chairpersons. The directive cannot be implemented if the Clerk has not forwarded it to the chairperson of the different committees, he said.
The Rules committee is probing MP Francis Zaake (NUP; Mityana Municipality), on two allegations of misconduct; one related to him continuing to speak after Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa overruled him during a plenary and the other over allegations that he made unpleasant comments about MP Juliet Kinyamatama (Ind; Rakai District) during Independence Day celebrations there.
What they say
Anita Among, Speaker of Parliament: “The Minister of Security wrote to me and asked for an additional one week which ended [on Monday]. I am now directing that the Executive presents a report to this House [today].»
Mathias Mpuuga, LoP: “We have resolved to re-assert our continuation of the boycott of plenary sittings until [the] government is ready and committed to make a statement [on the missing persons] … which [should respond] to all the issues we raised on the floor of Parliament; Once that is done, then we will also commit to go to the House, listen and respond.”