Speaker of Parliament Rt Hon Anita Among has been told to equally apply rules when it comes to penalizing Members of Parliament who miss parliamentary sittings.
This was revealed by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Hon Mathias Mpuuga (NUP) while addressing the press on Friday, November 17, 2023.
Mpuuga reacted harshly to the Speaker’s recent threat to expel all the opposition MPs who are boycotting plenary sittings in protest of the mishandling of the cases of the missing opposition members.
Mpuuga said if the speaker is serious about penalizing those missing parliament sessions, she should start with the cabinet ministers who almost never come to parliament.
The LOPs listed ministers such as Hon Janet Kataaha Museveni, the Minister of Education and Sports and Hon Kahinda Otafiire, the Minister for Internal Affairs.
Ministers as ex-officio members of parliament are required to regularly attend plenary to address questions raised on the house floor.
“I don’t think there is anybody feeling that the Opposition is out and therefore, the 15 days are targeting them. The 15 days should target Gen. Otafiire, Kataaha Museveni and others. The Opposition MPs are doing their work and even when they are absent, their absence from the House is official.”
Rule 50(1) of the Parliament Rules of Procedure requires that a minister shall attend sittings of the House to answer questions asked of him or her but if they are perennially absent to respond to the same, it inadvertently means the taxpayer has either missed the opportunity to hold those with power to account or that it is a deliberate effort to evade checking the power such an institution holds.
Some Ministers have not set foot in Parliament since they were appointed to the positions in June 2021 which has raised eyebrows. For example, the Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni has been severely criticized for failure to attend any of the plenary sessions.
On Tuesday, 14th November 2023, the Speaker of Parliament warned that if the opposition MPs miss 15 sittings in a row without seeking permission from her office for their absentia, she will be left with no option but to expel them from the House.
Speaking from the chair, Among emphasised the need for members to engage in parliamentary proceedings, stating, “Let’s be here and solve people’s problems. I will count the 15 sittings. Rule 112(6) prohibits a member from being absent from fifteen or more sittings without the Speaker’s permission during continuous parliamentary sessions,” Among stated.
Despite the Speaker’s warnings, the opposition remains unfazed, asserting that they formally communicated their absence to the Speaker.
Chief Opposition Whip John Baptist Nambeshe rebuked the Speaker’s pronouncements, highlighting ongoing communication between the leader of the opposition and the Speaker regarding their boycott.
In response to the situation, Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Nuwagaba reassured his colleagues, stating.
“Not under Rule 89, I would like to assure the opposition members to stay calm and fight for the interests of the people whose rights have been violated.”
The Speaker also announced that the government will present a comprehensive statement on human rights violations, addressing the opposition’s concerns, on November 21st.
The opposition, having missed over five sittings during their boycott, remains resolute in advocating for what they believe is right, with Nambeshe affirming that nothing will deter them.
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