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Legal Committee starts discussion on Opposition proposed Constitutional Amendments

Shadow Attorney-General Wilfred Niwagaba with a delegation from Opposition appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs to presents the ‘Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019. PHOTO via @pwatchug

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee started considering the Opposition constitutional amendments.

Led by the Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ocan, the Shadow Attorney-General appeared before the Committee to present and defend proposals in the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Some of the proposals presented include the scraping the representation of the army in Parliament, repeal the office of Prime Minister and Vice President, reinstatement of presidential term limits and prohibiting the appointment of Ministers from among MPs.

He also proposed that the Clerk to Parliament is appointed by the Parliamentary Commission, involvement of the Judicial Service Commission in the appointment of members of the Electoral Commission (EC), provision of the Speaker’s panel to assist the Speaker of Parliament and the Deputy and others.

Among these proposals, the MPs raised several concerns on the proposal to remove the army from parliament and the suggestion to have the panel of Speakers nominated by the Presiding Speaker.

MP Jacob Oboth said that the Bill was not providing for any transitional period questioning what would happen if the proposals of scraping the office of Vice President, Prime Minister and others are passed. He also tasked Niwagaba to explain why he would want a presiding Speaker of Parliament to nominate members of the Speakers Panel.

Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda supported the proposal to put in place a panel of speakers to help out the Speaker and Deputy Speaker in case of their absence. He, however, said that the trouble of the proposal to have a presiding Speaker nominate members of the panel is that parliament could end up having the members as personal assistants.

Ssemujju proposed that these members should be subjected to an election since the Speaker is also elected by Members of Parliament.

On the other side, Mwenge County South MP Aston Kajara questioned why the Opposition wanted to repeal the provision of having the army represented in parliament and leave out other special interest groups like women, youth and representatives for Persons with Disability (PWDs).

Kaberamaido County MP Veronica Elagu Bikyetero weighed in on the matter saying that army representation in parliament should be maintained since it is not a major problem in Parliament and that they are harmless. She supported Kajara on having a comprehensive review of all special interest groups represented in parliament.

Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu also emphasized a legal revision for parliament to review the existence of special interest groups in parliament. He said that besides the army representation, the affirmative action provision for a district woman MP also needs a review since those elected have ring-fenced the position.

Isingiro South MP Alex Byarugaba said that during the Constitution-making exercise in the Constituent Assembly, the Army representation in parliament as historical connotation and these need to be put into consideration.

Mitooma Woman MP Jovah Kamateeka also defended the presence of the Army in Parliament as well as district woman MPs. She said that it is important for the army to understand the political environment so that they can adequately defend the country.

In response, Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ocan said that the proposals are not only for the Opposition in Parliament but for the entire country to ensure that there is freedom and good governance. She said that their proposal to remove the army from parliament is to support the multi-party dispensation that Uganda adopted.

On his part, the Shadow Attorney-General Wilfred Niwagaba stood with his proposals saying that they are open to debate by the committee and reviews.

He, however, said that he stands with the removal of the army from parliament since Uganda operates a multi-party democracy. He also disagreed with the proposal to have members of the Speakers panel to be elected saying that this would have a charge on the Consolidated Fund.

The shadow Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Medard Lubega Sseggona said that the removal of the army representation in parliament does not stop a review of all the other special interest groups.

The Chairperson of the Committee Jacob Oboth noted that the MPs were to meet the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Ephraim Kamuntu next to receive the government’s views on the proposals.

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