NRM, Opposition unite in questioning Kadaga’s decision throw House roles to votes
PARLIAMENT | House chief whips from across the political divides were united in questioning Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s ruling that posts for Parliament commissioners be elective, a shift from the present norm where parties name them.
While Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa who threatened to challenge Kadaga’s ruling through a motion, her Opposition counterpart Ibrahim Sssemujju Nganda reminded the Speaker that the call for the posts to be voted for was rejected when it came for debate when the current commissioners were being appointed.
In her communication to the House on Tuesday, Kadaga said Parliament has handled the appointments to the Commission in error and the new development was intended to cure the anomaly.
There has been rumours that a section of legislators unhappy with the reshuffle from the main Opposition party Forum for Democratic Change would try to have the rules changed so that they do not cede positions.
In Parliament, Busiro East MP Medard Lubega tasked the Speaker to reveal the fate of the current commissioners given that their tenure ends in 13 days (December 31), yet there was no communication on who the next commissioners would be.
The Speaker cited Article 87 of the Constitution as well as the Administrations of Parliament Act and Rules of Procedures of Parliament with Rule 11(5).
The rule says: “The Constitution of the Commission under this rule shall be done during the first session of a new Parliament and tenure of service of the four backbench members shall be for two and half years subject to re-designation.”
She also pointed out the Administration of Parliament Act which stipulates that there must be nomination of candidate for election and they are nominated by Government and the Opposition, arguing that nomination is for the sake of election, not confirmation to the post at both the Opposition and Government have been doing in the past.
The Speaker also said that the issue was handled in East African Court of Justice with the judges ruling that election is to choose therefore there must be an election of the House.
She announced that Parliament is designated as a constituent college from among the four nominated candidates of the four backbench commissioners and there is need for MPs to have a say on who should represent them because they are the direct beneficiaries.
“It was an oversight on our part in making the rules as they are a direct contradiction in the Administrations of Parliament Act which is mandated under the constitution to make this law. To avoid ambiguity, we will use the word ‘designation’ to mean ‘nomination,’” Kadaga said.
She also announced that the Rules Committee will have to look through the matter and have the rules realigned to the Administrations of Parliament Act and the Constitution because the two are not uniform.
Opposition Chief Whip Nganda reminded Kadaga that the same matter was raised at the start of the 10th Parliament when the current team of commissioners were being designated after MPs called to have a say on the matter but their plea was quashed at the moment.
“I wonder whether this ruling is going to apply retrospectively. We had a debate on the same matter and some of us said we want to elect commissioners. The trouble I have is that we will appear to be changing the rules in the middle of the game because a similar ruling has been made on this matter and some of us protested and we were told we can’t elect,” he said.
There were questions also raised on what happens to the nominated commissioners with FDC having fronted Francis Mwijukye (Buhweju County), who is expected to replace Cecilia Ogwal, while NRM is said to have maintained Peter Ogwang (Usuk County), Robina Nabanjja and Arinaitwe Rwakajara.
“We are in multi-party dispensation it is the parties that actually nominate these various leaders and that has been the practice what happen to these commissioners whom I understand have been designated by the party,” Nganda added.
Government Whip Nankabirwa protested Kadaga’s ruling, wondering how the Speaker can “ambush NRM with such a ruling yet the party was in the middle of its game.”
She said: “Your ruling requires amendments of our Rules of Procedure because we made it in error. We were already in the process of electing commissioners, the game has started and you want to amend the rules; is it going to affect the current MPs?”
But Kadaga maintained that she was simply executing her duties as requested by MP Lubega.
Nankabirwa would have none of it. “I will be moving a motion to challenge your ruling, because I am not in agreement. Am I not supposed to challenge some of the provisions in your ruling? The rules allow me to,” she said.
Kadaga fired back saying Nankabirwa would be within her rights but cautioned that her motion would be fighting the Administrations of Parliament Act, which is the main law of Parliament.
Meanwhile, as the two opposites strained to strangle the Speaker with their opposition to her decision, an Independent MP saw a pigeon hole in which to sneak his qualms
MP Waira Majegere wondered why the Independent MPs have continuously been left out from the juicy slots of commissioner yet they have designated sitting places in the August House.
“I remember when people wanted to use law to send away rebel MPs you provided space here. What is the fate of MPs who are Independent and you are aware the commission is supposed to cater for the welfare of MPs?” he asked.
Kadaga told Majegere that as much as she was aware of the presence of Independent MPs, the Constitution and Administrations of Parliament Act haven’t been amended to accommodate for Independents.