Opposition protests appointment of its MP onto a Sectoral committee
The appointment of an opposition Member of Parliament to a sectoral committee has drawn wide protests from the Opposition.
Sectoral committees last for one year and are determined at the start of each new session, with party whips assigned to designate them and later approved by the House.
During today’s plenary sitting, the Government Chief Whip, Ruth Nankabirwa presented names of MPs to be designated to the 15 sectoral committees.
Trouble started when Nankabirwa named Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) member and Maruzi County MP, Maxwell Akora as vice chairperson of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) committee, deputizing Tororo North MP, Annet Nyakecho.
This however drew sharp protests from opposition legislators who included Butambala County MP, Mohammed Kivumbi, wondering whether Akora’s appointment is not tantamount to crossing the floor of Parliament to another political party.
Kivumbi reminded the House that the appointment of Oyam South MP and UPC member, Betty Amongi as Minister of Lands was illegal, given that she is currently serving in the NRM government.
Ndorwa East MP and Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba suggested that given the sensitivity of the matter, it would be prudent for Parliament to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court for further interpretation.
“I would implore you to use your powers as the presiding officer to refer this situation to the Constitutional Court for interpretation as to whether a member of a political party which is not in coalition with the ruling NRM can serve in the ruling party’s government as a member of a political party and can also be appointed by the NRM to a committee,” Niwagaba suggested.
Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana said the duties of the sectoral committees are stipulated in the laws and the member being designated is serving the interests of Parliament and not the political party.
Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal said the moment one is elected through the opposition and later they are appointed to government, it is tantamount to breaching the spirit of the Constitution, hence need to halt the designation process.
Kabula County MP, James Kakooza and Kampala Central MP, Mohammed Nsereko reminded the House that there is no law that prohibits government from appointing opposition members into cabinet and committees. They said the opposition has severally appointed Independent MPs to their shadow cabinet.
However, Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi shot back, quoting the Administration of Parliament Act 2006, which stipulates that the Leader of Opposition is given powers to consult with other opposition MPs and Independents, yet the ruling party is not catered for.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, who presided over the sitting, tried in vain to convince the legislators to allow the Government Chief Whip to designate members to other committees and stay the appointment to the ICT committee.
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Winnie Kiiza said the move by Nankabirwa was meant to undermine the Opposition and its powers to designate its members. Kiiza said the Opposition is willing to let go of their opposition member if he announces that he is ready to cross over to the NRM.
“It is not in the spirit of democracy and enabling the whips to do their work. We are not going to wait for NRM to designate out members…If one of the UPC members feels comfortable to be designated by the NRM, the floor is open for him to cross…I am not then ready to bring the names of the other UPC members,” Kiiza charged.
To stop the impasse, Nankabirwa asked that the designation of Akora on the ICT committee is stayed to allow for further consultations among the Opposition on the matter.
The sitting ended with one committee of Education and Sports approved, with Mbale Woman MP, Connie Galiwango and Palisa County MP, Jacob Opolot retained as chairperson and vice chairperson of the committee.