Parliament has suspended committee and House sittings indefinitely until government vacates a court order stopping the August House from investigating circumstances under which 42 government officers received Shs 6 billion as bonuses to defend a tax case.
Rebecca Kadaga, the Speaker of Parliament, on January 10, 2017, in the first sitting of the House after its two-week Christmas break, ordered the Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana, to return to court and have the injunction issued by Deputy Chief Justice, Steven Kavuma on January 9, 2017, quashed.
Kadaga’s directive stemmed from the order, served to her office today morning, an hour after the House convened its sitting. Incensed by the actions of Justice Kavuma’s order, Kadaga said the court was in essence blocking Parliament’s core role of legislating and passing laws.
“This order says we should not debate, we should not inquire and investigate; that is unacceptable. There is no way we shall deal with the budget without talking about this matter; there is no way the government will secure the money for the petroleum fund without talking about this matter. I want to direct the AG to move to court immediately and get this stupid order vacated,” Kadaga directed Rukutana, causing shouts and claps from the MPs, who cheered her on.
Rukutana, who had earlier risen to question the direction of debate on the motion tabled by Michael Tusiime, Mbarara Municipality MP, looked on as MPs heckled him when he attempted to raise the matter.
“The Constitutional Court issued an injunction restraining Parliament from investigating, questioning or inquiring into the bonus. We are respondents, these are private lawyers and the application is against the Attorney General. Since this is a court order issued by a competent court, I want to be guided by you Madam Speaker on how we proceed in light of the provisions contained in this court order,” Rukutana said.
His efforts to defend himself that he had only sought guidance were drowned by statements from MPs asking him to sit down.
The Speaker informed the House that she had not received the order before the House convened the House, which thereby
“I want to draw the attention of the Attorney General on the Rules of Procedure and Parliament Powers and Privileges Act, Section 4 which states that no process issued by any court in Uganda, in the exercise of civil jurisdiction, shall be served or executed within the precincts of Parliament while Parliament is sitting”, she revealed.
James Kakooza, Kabula County MP, wondered how one arm of government, the Judiciary decides in anticipation on Parliament’s role, terming it as a bad precedent for Uganda’s history.
“There is no way whereby you can debate in anticipation. How can judiciary decide for us what we have not done? It is a bad precedent,” Kakooza said.
West Budama South MP, Jacob Oboth warned that if Parliament allowed such an occurrence to happen, the House will be blocked from conducting business.
“My fear, Madam Speaker, is that another order will come tomorrow, restricting MPs not to come to Parliament…we either liberate our Parliament today or not,”
A visibly bitter Professor Ogenga Latigo, Agago North MP, condemned the court order, wondering how Justice Kavuma had the audacity to issue the order to Parliament like a bunch of “cattle thieves”.
“We should not waste time examining the law behind this court order. We should just proceed with our business…if a street person can go and get a court order stopping Parliament from deliberation, what we are going to do in this country? What kind of door are we opening? Where will our democracy end up? We should even end this discussion and the Executive apologises to Parliament for encouraging this mischief,” Latigo lamented.
Ssempala Kigozi Ssajalyabene, Makindye-Sabagabo municipality, warned the Judiciary against interfering with Parliament’s work.
Anifa Kawooya, Sembabule Woman MP, expressed shock over the Attorney General’s audacity to question Parliament’s work.
Kadaga stressed that there is no way Parliament will handle the budget process without discussions on the Ugx 6 billion payments.
“I want to direct the AG to move to court immediately and get this stupid order vacated…I want the rights of MPs fully reinstated,” Kadaga ordered, drawing chants and cheers of “Our woman” from MPs from across the political divide.
She also ordered that no committees will conduct sittings and no plenary sittings will convene until the court order is quashed.