There were dramatic scenes in parliament on Thursday as Parliament prepared to vote on the Public Order and Management Bill. As a result, three lawmakers have been suspended from Parliament for 3 sittings for disrupting parliament proceedings on Thursday evening.
The MPs are; Theodore Sekikubo (Lwemiyaga County), Odonga Otto (Aruu County) and Ibrahim Semujju Nganda (Kyadondo East). The trio were suspended for misconduct.
The chaos arose from the Deputy Speaker’s decision not to recommit the contentious Clause 8 of the bill. The opposition plus independent MPs insist the clause which among other things gives the Inspector General of Police powers to deem a proposed venue for a given gathering unsuitable or otherwise should be changed or entirely removed.
The MPs became loud and unruly during the debate as they disputed an attempt by Deputy Speaker Oulanyah to put the bill to vote.
It’s at this point that Aruu county MP Odonga Otto got hold of the MP register and ripped it apart in order to stop to the vote process from going ahead.
Oulanya then adjourned the house to Tuesday next week for the roll call and tally to continue and added that the disciplinary action against Otto will be communicated.
Odonga Otto said that Oulanyah had no right to stop opposition MPs from speaking about the bill and according them more time to consult about it before it is passed.
Otto, who had earlier this year noted that he would leave Parliament in 2016, said he had changed his mind about retiring from politics. Instead, he said he is going to seek re-election to represent Omoro County which the Deputy Speaker currently represents.
MP Ssekikubo said he was disappointed with Deputy Speaker Oulanyah’s conduct adding that the deputy speaker had attempted to pass the bill last Thursday, but was blocked because parliament did not have a quorum. Ssekikubo said he had been informed just in time as opposition MPs were not in the House.
He said Oulanyah’s decision to try and pass the bill again in this manner demonstrated that he had decided to fight NRM wars instead of being impartial.
MPS ASK FOR MORE TIME
Parliament witnessed a large turn up on Thursday as Members of Parliament met to conclude the Public Order Management Bill.
However, the decision by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya to conclude the discussion has not gone down well with opposition MPs.
Opposition MPs kept on rising procedural points and points of order to the Deputy Speaker arguing that the NRM MPs had been mobilized to attend so that the bill passes yet most of them have not participated in the legislation of the bill.
MP Mwiru Paul, representing Jinja Municipality, rose on a procedural point to question how the house suddenly had enough members to vote on the bill. He reminded the Deputy Speaker that the house had been forced to adjourn yesterday because the house lacked quorum.
Mwiru added that the Constitutional Court ruled on the bill in a petition that was forwarded by MP Muwanga Kivumbi that it was giving a lot of powers to Police and that it was abusive to rights of Ugandans say freedom of Speech, Movement and other.
However Mwiru’s argument fell on deaf ears. The Deputy Speaker insisted that parliament was following procedural rules and it was not the speaker’s business to explain how they got there.
MP Beatrice Anywar appealed to the Deputy Speaker that the bill be given taken for consultation with their constituents. She said this is what had been done with the controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill.
But Oulanyah disagreed and ruled that this was not necessary as the house had done much of the work on the bill and should be the one to vote on it.
MP Betty Awol, the Woman MP for Gulu, stood up on a guidance point and wondered if the opposition MPs have the same rights as the NRM members.
Awol, who almost cried on the floor, said she was very sad to see MPs turn up at parliament after long absences for the purpose of voting along party lines with little knowledge of the issues discussed.
Oulanyah noted that all MPs are respected and have the same rights in Parliament. He went on to ask the members to respect whatever decision the house takes.
MP Odongo Otto suggested that Parliament debates again the clauses that were stayed yesterday so that quorum is attained to vote on the bill.
He explained that there are many MPs who had not attended proceedings of the Bill and that this could be a chance for them to understand the bill and vote on something they are aware of. In this case Otto cited the new Internal Affairs Minister Aronda Nyakairima who attended the session today for the first time as Minister and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi who was not in the house yesterday.
General Aronda noted that he had been following the bill and that he fully understands it.
MP Lulume Bayiga then moved a motion that the debate to vote on the bill be deferred for further notice which was seconded by most of the opposition MPs.
The Deputy Speaker then ruled and adjourned the debate to the afternoon with a directive that MP Mwiru comes back and explains the clauses that the Constitutional Court ruled to be dangerous in the bill.
The Opposition is now currently in a closed caucus meeting in order to have a common stand on what to do in the afternoon when they return to the house.
The Clauses that were stayed yesterday with a motion of recommital of clause 7, 8, 9 and 10 in the bill that need to be voted on today by MPS.
Clause 7 and 8 of the Bill provides that an organizer shall give notice in writing to the IGP of the intention to hold a public meeting, at least seven days but not more than fifteen days before the proposed date of a public meeting.
Clause 9 of the Bill prohibits organizers of Public gatherings from telling the Media anything if it against the laws of Uganda.
Clause 10 provides for the fundamental duty of Police which is to preserve law and order.
The POMB which seeks to regulate public meetings and use of Public address systems, has been widely criticized by both human rights activists and political organizations saying it infringes on human rights and it’s a replica of the already existing laws.