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Constitution Ammendment Bill makes it’s debut in the Legal & Parliamentary Affairs Committee

Published 3 weeks ago -


 The Constitution amendment bill seeks to empower government to compulsorily acquire land declared for compulsory acquisition upon depositing a compensation in court, pending the outcome of any dispute. This, according to government will cure the problem of delayed implementation of government projects arising out of disputes on compensation. However, the committee members objected the proposed amendment citing a host of reasons.

Debate of the constitution amendment Bill got heated up in the Parliamentary Committee on Legal and Parliamentary affairs when the Deputy and Attorney General and Minister of state for Justice appeared before the committee. The meeting was chaired by Hon. Oboth M. Jackob.

The Bill which was tabled in Parliament on 13 June, 2017 seeks to amend article 26 of the constitution in accordance with articles 259 and 262 of the constitution. The purpose of the bill is to resolve the current problem of delayed implementation of government infrastructure and investment projects due to disputes arising out of the compulsory land acquisition process.

He added that as stated in the object of the bill, the delayed government projects have caused significant financial loss to the Government amounting to millions of dollars in penalties paid to road contractors for redundant machinery.

The minister added that this proposal will create a win-win situation for both government and land owners. He even said that anyone who opposed to the proposed amendments is not of sober and sane mind, a remark that the visibly angry MP made him to withdraw.

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He added that no individual should be allowed to stifle government development projects that are in the interest of public good.

The Minister was flanked by the Minister for land, housing and Urban development Hon. Amongi Betty who added that the compulsory acquisition of land by government is already provided for under the Compulsory Acquisition Land Act of 1965.

However, the two Ministers received a baptism of fire from legislators across the political divide who vehemently opposed the proposed amendment. Members argued that this proposal will take away people’s right to own land.

Firstly, Members questioned why government is bringing piece meal amendments to the constitution, in total disregard of the commitment it made to bring comprehensive constitution amendments. Hon Sseggona even added that government had failed to justify the land amendment as a crucial and urgent matter.

Secondly, Members questioned whether, amending the constitution was the right remedy for the problem sighted by the Attorney General, which is delays in settling disputes. Hon Abdu Katuntu suggested that Government should instead amend the Compulsory Land Acquisition Act to provide for a time frame for settling such disputes.

In addition the government should clean up the judicial system, which is partly responsible for such delays.

Backing up Hon Katuntu, Hon Monica Amonding said that government should not compensate its administrative weaknesses by finding an easy way out by tampering with the constitution. Instead, it should make the judiciary more effective and streamline planning processes for the said development projects.

 

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The debate got heated as exchanges between the Members and the Minister soared. Hon Nsereko even moved that the Minister should not be heard again and that the committee should throw out the amendment bill. However, the Committee chairperson Hon. Oboth reminded Members that the Minister had every right to be heard.

The third issue raised by the Members was that government is a serial defaulter. Hon Kantutu said the government that is knee deep in 1 trillion of debt, has failed to pay previous compensation obligations and court awards cannot be trusted in this endeavor.

On the minister’s submission on the urgency required for this amendment Members also assured the Minister, that Parliament will not pass a law that will deprive them of their property without extensive and vigorous consultation.

After failing to come to a conclusion as tempers flared, the committee chairperson asked that the Minister of Justice returns Thursday next week.

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