MPs start consideration of Age Limit Bill

KMJ 3831The long awaited consideration of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill commenced with shouts, interruptions and delays as mainly Opposition and Independent MPs raised procedural concerns and objections about the Bill.

The Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2), 2017, a private members bill moved by Hon. Raphael Magyezi (NRM, Igara West), early this month, was referred to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration.

Magyezi, together with two seconders Hon. Moses Balyeku (NRM, Jinja Munic. West) and Hon. Jackson Kafuuzi (NRM, Kyaka South), were scheduled to formally introduce the Bill to the Committee starting at 10.00am. The three sat patiently as MPs raised several objections before their presentation, forcing the Chairperson to shift the venue of the meeting and to suspend proceedings for half an hour to sort our internal committee matters. Members including: Opposition Whip, Hon. Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC, Kira Munic.), Shadow Minister of Justice, Hon. Medard Lubega (DP, Busiro East), Hon. Mathias Mpuuga (Ind., Masaka Munic.), Hon. Muhammad Nsereko (Ind., Kampala Central), Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba (Ind., Ndorwa East) and Hon. Monica Amoding (NRM, Kumi district) had demanded that the Committee first meets without the mover and seconder of the Bill to agree on witnesses to be called, time to spend on each of them and time required to complete consideration of the Bill.

The Members said they lacked the committee programme, the Bill and other documents pertaining to the business at hand.

Opposition Whip, Hon. Ibrahim Ssemujju, said he felt insecure and uncomfortable meeting in the Conference Hall, where it is claimed the Special Forces Command (SFC) met and organised before storming the Chamber of Parliament to forcefully evict suspended MPs on 27th September 2017.

“Before the SFC invaded Parliament, they were stationed in the Conference Hall. I’ll be uncomfortable sitting in this room. I have a problem with this being the venue of this meeting,” said Ssemujju.

“This is a torture chamber. This was a transit room for those of us that were rudely arrested,” said Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba.

After several objections, the meeting was moved from the basement of the Conference Hall to the South Committee Room located on the Second Floor of Parliament.

However, before Hon. Magyezi could be allowed to present a prepared memorandum about the Bill, the Chairperson of the Committee Hon. Jacob Oboth (Ind., West Budama South), yielded to MPs demands for a private session without the witnesses and media.

In the afternoon, Hon. Magyezi was eventually called upon to make his presentation, which also continued with unending interruptions and calls for order and procedure. At one point, as Magyezi was making his contribution and with the Chairperson neglecting MPs calls, Hon. Monica Amoding and Medard Sseggona, switched off his microphone repeatedly preventing him from proceeding with the presentation.

Following the presentation, the trio hurriedly left the room without fielding any questions, as the procedure has always been, giving way to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Kahinda Otafiire. He however also failed to proceed as legislators rejected his unsigned written presentation.

“It is regrettable the way we are conducting business here. We are wasting valuable time. At the end of the day we must write a Report,” said Hon. Oboth adding that “We cannot set the agenda about this Bill if we are less accommodative.”

The Chairperson promised to invite the Minister at a later date.

The Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2017 seeks to amend the Constitution to provide adequate time within which to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections; to alter eligibility requirements for persons standing for President or District Chairperson; and to increase the number of days within which to file and determine a presidential election petition; and to increase the number of days within which the Electoral Commission is required to hold a fresh election where a presidential election is annulled by court.

The Committee has 45 days to consider the Bill and prepare its report.