August 22, 2013

Sharp Question As ‘Busy’ Ministers Boycott Parliament

Members of Parliament have on Wednesday queried the absence of all ministers and a big number of MPs on the NRM side in the afternoon session.

On Tuesday, the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga adjourned the sitting to Wednesday 2pm and by 2:30pm when she entered the House for business there was no single Minister.

Kawempe South MP Sebuliba Mutumba rose on a procedural point asking whether it was right to proceed without any Minister to answer to matters of National Importance raised by MPs from their respective constituencies. Speaker Kadaga suspended the afternoon session for 10 minutes for Ministers to attend plenary.

However, after over 30 minutes, there were only two junior Ministers; Musa Ecweru and the deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhindi that had managed to get in the House.

Rubaga South MP Ken Lukyamuzi requested the Speaker for an explanation from the Ministers why they decided to keep out of the session before Parliament could proceed with the day’s business. Lukyamuzi noted that this was the first time in the history of Parliament in the two terms he has served to witness the total absence of Ministers adding that they had abandoned their responsibility to the nation.

The Deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhindi said that the absence of Ministers in Plenary was a symptom of a hardworking government saying that Parliament is busy, Executive is busy and that the Judiciary is busy. Ruhindi’s response, however, did not go well with the opposition MPs who booed him.

The Opposition Chief Whip Winnie Kizza noted that the Parliamentary calendar is there to guide them on when and how to move. She noted that Parliament whenever it sits deliberates on important matters regarding development and how to manage the country and that a government that cares should be in attendance to guide debate.

Kiiza, the Kasese Woman MP, further noted that the Constitution mandates the Executive to be in attendance when Parliament is deliberating. She questioned whether the Attorney General was in order to say that the Ministers are busy deliberating on other issues than attending plenary.
Speaker Kadaga noted that when they were first elected, President Museveni came to the House and requested for some increment in the number of Ministers so that business can be run efficiently. Parliament complied, according to the Speaker, and gave him the Ministers and that it was believed some of them would be always available to do work in the House.

She wondered whether the Attorney General could give a good excuse for Ministers not being in the House saying that some Ministries have got three Ministers.

Terego County MP Kassiano Wadri reminded the Speaker that in her communication on Tuesday she did a lot to the poor working relationship between the Executive represented by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Parliament.

At the start of plenary on Tuesday, Kadaga made a statement that appeared to be directed at Premier Mbabazi who had last week said the Speaker was working for the opposition. Kadaga said she is a speaker for everyone, noting that the comments by Mbabazi undermined the spirit of multi-party democracy.

Wadri noted that today just one day after, only two junior ministers were in the house out of the nearly 80 Ministers in cabinet. He questioned whether it is a coincidence that the Speaker talked about the working relationship yesterday and that today the government side with membership of nearly 300 MPs was nearly empty.

He noted that the Executive must explain because tax payers’ money is being spent on nothing which he termed to be corruption.

Ruhindi pleaded that Members of the Executive had requested Parliament to bear with them, saying that they were winding up some business and that they would soon make it to the House. He proposed that the House handles other business on the order paper as the Ministers come.

Speaker Kadaga ruled that issues that needed response from the ministers be until when Ministers that can answer are in the House.

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