How Drama Unfolded As Parliament Tabled Age Limit Motion At Night
By Prisca Wanyenya
The motion by Nakifuma County MP, Kafeero Sekitoleko seeking for leave of Parliament to allow him table the famous age limit bill was finally tabled in Parliament-at night.
But as expected, the proposed Bill that has generated a heated debate in Uganda, even tabling of the motion saw the opponents of the Bill go down in the mud.
The tabling of the motion was the last item lined up on the order paper but by 6:50Pm, there were four items pending debate with the age limit motion being the last business to handle.
Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah was forced to skip the other three items and pushed them to next week in order to accommodate the tabling of the motion.
Ingredients Of Bill
Among the amendments to be made are in Article 144 (2). Currently the constitution provides that the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Justices of the Supreme Court and those of the Court of Appeal shall retire at 70 years.
But in his proposals, Sekitoleko wants Parliament to increase the retirement age of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Justices increased from 70 to 75 years and from 65 to 75 years for other judges.
The other amendments in the Bill seek to clearly separate the powers and roles of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament as well as creation of an independent office of the Deputy Attorney General.
Kafeero also wants to scrap off the clause in the 1995 Constitution that only limits Presidential candidates to petition outcomes of the Presidential election so as to allow political parties and individuals who are discontented with the outcome of the presidential elections to petition the Supreme Court.
On top of allowing any legal person to challenge the outcomes of the Presidential elections, Kafeero also wants the period for filing and adjudication of the Presidential election petition increased.
In the same bill, the MP wants Parliament to remove the limit on the tenure of members of the Independent Electoral Commission whose office tenure currently stands at 2 terms.
Kafeero also wants the Constitution to be amended so as to clearly spell out the role of Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.
Despite the fact that the proposals has no ingredients of the controversial amendment of Presidential age limit, which is currently standing at 75 years. But critics of the motion argue that this will be the mother to give birth to the Bill.
How The Battle To Table Motion Went Down
The bridegroom took to the floor ready to present the motion. As soon as he had taken his place and addressed legislators, the flood gates of protest opened.
First was Wilfred Nuwagaba Shadow Attorney who protested the tabling of the motion arguing that Sekitoleko was in contravention of Parliamentary proceedings.
Nuwagaba in his argument stated that Sekitoleko hadn’t attached a Certificate of financial implication on how payment of the retired judges will affect the economy as it had to be obtained from the consolidated Fund.
Oulanyah quickly jumped to the defence of Sekitoleko blasting Nuwagaba and warning him against pre-emptying his debate on the bill saying that the Nakifuma is only seeking for permission to move the bill.
“This motion doesn’t attract certificate of financial implication. If it was done in the past, it was a mistake. Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Oulanyah said.
Ssekitoleko returned to the center ready to present his bill but the MPs wouldn’t let him have his way easily.
Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze joined the queue saying Parliament should handle the matter carefully because the amendment of the constitution isn’t like handling a memorandum of understanding.
The Deputy Speaker Oulanyah had to come in reminding the MPs to allow the motion be tabled instead of trying to debate in suspicion.
Nambooze fired back saying, “It is true we are not amending, but at least we are kick starting the process of amending the constitution. It is a matter of time, it is already night. We jumped three other items as if we are looking things important.”
But Oulanyah wouldn’t let Nambooze order her on how to do his job defending the skipping of other matters on the order paper arguing that the matters weren’t jumped deliberately.
“I explained the skipping. This House has sat even11Pm, the issue of night doesn’t arise. Are we going to block if you want to go ahead and do it. As of now, we don’t even have the motion. We are now anticipating and our rules prohibit us to debate in anticipation” Oulanyah defended himself.
Winfred Kiiza the Leader of Opposition chipped in protesting Oualayah’s accusation that MPs are protesting saying the critics of the motion aren’t seeking at block the tabling of the motion.
She said: “I think the members aren’t trying to block one of their own. All they want is to find if we are following right procedure. You also said two wrongs don’t make a right if this house has closed after 11Pm we also have issues of Human rights,” Kiiza said before adding on that;
“We have mothers fathers, would want to go home. Others about to give birth in the chamber. They were asking for your indulgence as presiding officer. We adjourn and start with the matter tomorrow, so we give it necessary time and support we get time acceptable to us,” Kiiza said.
However, before Oulayah could rule on Kiiza’s procedural matter, Busongora North MP, William Nzoghu joined the debate wondering why Oulanyah is trying to take back from his previous ruling on the matter.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), you did make a ruling that this matter needed to be handled when our minds are fresh,” however, before he could finish his statement, Oulanyah denied the allegations labeled against him demanding Nzoghu to respect him demanding; “I am here, please respect me. What you are saying, I didn’t say it.”
Nzoghu backed Niwagaba’s argument stating that allowing Sekitoleko without certificate of financial implication is itself not fair to Uganda asking if it would be right for Sekitoleko to proceed with tabling the motion with such lacuna in the law.
However, Oulanyah protested the argument it would be instead irregular if Parliament denied Sekitoleko is denied chance to even ask permission from Parliament to present his motion.
The battle now turned to take the legal lane with lawyers in the House trying to outwit the other. Gerard Karuhanga led the legal battle reminding Parliament how he was stopped from tabling a bill seeking to restore the Presidential term limit.
“I don’t think they want to deny but they want to do it procedural right. I tried to restore presidential term limit, there was an intended, rest my case humbly wait for the moment. I took it in good spirit. I think that’s the way we should move,” Karuhanga said.
He also added: “Are we going to sit every week member comes to amend the law. That’s the spirit am disagreeing with. We appreciate the spirit of letting member to enjoy constitutional right. We do it in contest that our House”
However, Oulayah praised Karuhanga’s argument but told him to save his legal arguments when the bill has been tabled, saying his arguments weren’t called at the moment. “That very well articulated position is the debate of the motion. You are debating the motion, use to shoot down the motion,” Oulanyah argued.
Raphael Magyezi from Igara East County changed the pace of the debate when he asked Oulanyah to put a question to Parliament and let the member have the say.
The Deputy Speaker noted with regret as to why members are pushing him to the position to vote over a matter. “It didn’t have to come to that. Really. I will now have to put a question. Do we have to vote on whether a member should ask this House for permission,” Oulanyah said.
James Kakooza called on fellow legislators to calm their suspicions saying denying Sekitoleko chance to even ask for permission was bound to set a bad precedent for Parliament.
Butambala County MP, Muwanga Kivumbi who described himself as Human rights defender in Parliament said he felt insulted debating on allowing Sekitoleko to have permission to law the motion before Parliament.
“He must have his right. Therefore you are also moving in circles we labored. We are going to be accorded adequate time and this matter is contentious and general public is concerned, we give him his right first issue of Tuesday and give it justice,” Kivumbi pleaded.
But Oulanyah rejected this request saying Parliament had postponed the matter saying Parliament had postponed the matter and was not about to do the same.
Sseggona bounced back amidst the noise in the House demanding fellow MPs to listen to him as sector Minister.
He noted; “If we can’t protect and defend rights of our own member who is safe in Uganda? The Constitution must be protected and the first person is us. How I wish they had co-opted me because I am deeply interested.”
Sseggona went on asking MPs to own up the Bill that will be tabled noting; “I am happy this isn’t government Bill but private. And we should co-own it.”
He went on saying; “Let’s do it a tri-part consultant between now and Tuesday. The Honourable Kakooza has hinted on something suspicion, although, we ought to be honest to each other. Let us have a chat across the board, between Parliament, Government and the Public, Sseggona said before adding;
“We would work out a mechanism to remove this suspicion after all it is this House that has been demanding. It is not do or die that country will be on flames because the country hasn’t debated this motion. But because of the debate it has generated in public, we need to move in harmony.”
When asked about his stand on the matter, Attorney General William Byaruhanga concurred with Oulanyah.
However, UPDF Representative, Elly Tuwmine put Byaruhanga to task to explain why he finds the motion appropriate with Kafeero having attached the draft of the Bill.
“What was the motive of attaching the bill to the motion? My mind moves to think like this that a member because of enjoying right. Is the Bill that is attached to the motion okay?” Tumwine asked winning applause from Opposition members like Sseggona and Nuwagaba who moved to shake his hand but Tumwine rejected to return the favour.
Attorney General replied saying the private member has the right to seek leave here to present the motion together with the draft of the Bill.
Another NRM MP, Thomas Tayebwa pleaded with MPs to allow the motion seeking for Parliament to table Motion be accepted.
Abasi Agaba from the Ruling Party backed Tayebwa telling Parliament that members will have a lot of time to debate the motion adding that Parliament doesn’t have the right to deny a member to present private member bill.
Mathia Mpugga jumped in the bandwagon saying; “Its very dangerous for a House of Representative to deliberate in suspicion. I too carry the same way to suspect everybody. We are discussing the amendment of people’s Act.”
He went on; “I thought the proposition would help us end the impasse. The silence of the line minister is very suspicious. “
But Oulayah warned Mpuga against abusing rules of Parliament accusing him of putting the Justice Minister in bad light.
However, one new legislator left MPs in shame wondering why Kafeero could seek leave from fellow MPs yet its only Speaker with powers to issue leave from Parliament.
Oulayah fired back stating; “If we are reluctant to receive this motion, let us express our reluctance in another way.”
Monica Amoding, Woman Representative Kumi said; “The duty we owe Uganda is to legislate matters that are pertinent. I us want to indulge even when we may have our fears but the duty we owe Ugandans either way we have to confront this issue. Am very suspicious and anxious to debate this issue.”
Oulayah later allowed Kafeero to present his request and urged Legislators to receive the motion and debate it on either to allow or throw it out next week.
Sekitoleko thanked Oulayah for protecting his constitutional right. Lutamaguzi, Ssekikuubo, Francis Mwijukye, Mubaraka Munyagwa, Osegge, Karuhanga stood up in protest throughout the period.