The lawyer representing a petitioner who sought to stop discussion on the sh6 billion cash awarded to a number of selected public servants has apologized to Uganda’s parliament for the issuance of a court order, which stalled government business.
“The speaker’s ruling, which is as a result of the court order dictates that Parliament shall not hold any business including passing of the budget which affects the entire country; it is in that spirit that I apologize to parliament and the country for the consequences of our appeal to the Constitutional Court,” lawyer Alex Candia said at a briefing at parliament on Wednesday.
“This apology does not in any way mean that the court order is illegal or unlawful but am considering the consequences. It is simply an apology for its outcome,” Candia added.
Candia of Candia & D.W. Oundo Advocates met legislators Elijah Okupa (FDC, Kasilo County) and Anita Among (FDC, Bukedea Woman) to apologize for consequences of the Court Order in which his client, Eric Sabiiti petitioned the Constitutional Court to block Parliament from debating and investigating the cash award. Sabiiti works at the Electoral Commission.
AMONG: The 42 people should come and we have a chat like we are having with counsel Candia so that we have this issue resolved.”
Candia promised to advise his client, Sabiiti, to withdraw the matter from the Constitutional Court.
“If my client insists on continuing with the matter of the court order then I will advise him to seek alternative legal assistance,” Candia said.
The apology follows a decision by the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to indefinitely suspend Parliament over a Court Order blocking the house from debating and investigating how 42 public servants were rewarded sh6billion after winning a Tax Arbitration case between government and Heritage Oil.
Kadaga ruled in parliaiment that the Court Order was an attempt by the judiciary to overstep its mandate and interfere with the authority of Parliament. She called the court order “stupid”. (See Tension as Kadaga adjourns parliament until Kavuma court order vacated)
MP Okupa, who received Candia at Parliament as Kadaga was away, said that the move by the laywer was welcome and was a sign of working harmoniously for the benefit of the country.
“We like the spirit of national interest and we would be happier if the 42 beneficiaries opt to refund the money to stop all of this,” he said.
— Parliament of Uganda (@Parliament_UG) January 11, 2017
MP Among called for more dialogue between parliament and the beneficiaries. “The President is a politician with technocrats to help him in such situations so people should not hide behind him,” she said.
“The 42 people should come and we have a chat like we are having with counsel Candia so that we have this issue resolved,” said Among.
In 2010, Heritage Oil sold its interest in Uganda to Tullow Oil at over $1.5bn. The Ugandan government decided to impose a Capital Gains Tax on the transaction. However, the oil firms refused to pay and the drawn-out dispute went on to the UK Court of Arbitration, where it was concluded.
This formed the background of the Tax Arbitration case that the Government of Uganda won.
The sh6billion “Presidential handshake” to those involved in the case, has received widespread condemnation from a cross section of Ugandans.
The Judiciary and Uganda Law Society have also had their say on the matter. (see ULS statement bottom)