Legislators from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party on Tuesday rejected a proposal by the President to amend the Constitution and scrap bail right for suspects in capital offences.
The President has always got his wish in as far as amendments to the 1995 Constitution are concerned. These have come by hook and crook and encompassed even the most sensitive articles of the national laws.
This is why the latest stance should be a cause for many to worry and that must include the legislators.
The President has for decades spoken against the right to bail that is enshrined in Article 23(6) of the Constitution that allows for presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
The article clearly defines the right to bail and the conditions under which one may be granted that temporary freedom but the President has always felt that granting courts discretionary powers on bail decisions is a “provocation.”
In the recent past, legislators especially from the National Resistance Movement party have pushed through with some of the most controversial laws but as the world moved a full circle, many of them found themselves falling off the pendulum swing from which they enjoyed a semblance of power – and at the mercy of the very bad laws they helped create.
It might not be any different for the right to bail. While the preliminary has been good for the Constitution, it is not yet known what card the President will play next if he decided to not accept defeat in his decades-old wish to scrap the right to bail in the country.
But whatever the card, legislators must stand their ground on this and protect the Constitution, at least this once.As well as a strong rejection of the President’s controversial wish, Parliament must engage with the Executive to push for speedy trials for all suspects. This should be done by way of increasing the numbers on the bench and boosting the Judiciary to execute its mandate.
A speedy trial would not only guarantee justice for accused persons that the President want denied bail but also ensures that their temporary freedom is not long enough to offend suspected victims or their relatives.
There have been times when NRM legislators have rejected proposals to amend the national laws or controversial bills only to return and push for the same even before the rooster has sounded its second alert.
Ugandans must hope that 2021 is a different year from the past and that every legislator of sound mind will learn from past experiences and now allow themselves to be the subjects on the crucifixion woods of the same bad law they passed. On the right to bail, there should be no compromise whatsoever.
Stakeholders must instead work to facilitate the speedy trial for all cases before courts of law.