Mixed Reactions as Legal Committee holds first Sitting
There was fire at parliament as split dominated the committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs when it started scrutiny of the controversial constitutional amendment bill on the presidential age limit.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga was on Wednesday tasked the committee to scrutinize the bill and present a report within 45 days in line with the Rules of Procedure.
The infamous bill seeks, among others, to scrap Article 102 (b) of the constitution, which caps the presidential age at 75, a move which could make President Yoweri Museveni eligible to contest for another term of office. At 73, Museveni would be ineligible to contest for the presidency in 2021, when his current term ends.
During the 45 days, members of the general public will present their views in support or against the bill, to the committee before the bill is read for the second time. The committee is empowered to suggest amendments to the text with a view of improving the draft legislation.
However, as expected, opposition legislators have expressed worry that with the current composition of the committee, the process could only aim at rubber-stamping positions that have already been endorsed by the ruling National Resistance Movement Party-NRM.
The legal committee is composed of 24 members, but dominated by the NRM with a membership of 13 legislators, 6 independent members, 2 members of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, 2 from the Democratic Party (DP) and 1 representative from the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF). The Rules of Procedure provide for a maximum of 30 MPs on a particular committee.
Now, the seven members of both Opposition Parties and Independent legislators on the committee have publicly declared that they are against the proposed amendment while one MP from the NRM Party openly supported the amendment.
3 MPs confirmed their opinions on the bill but were not willing to divulge them citing their position on the committee. Another nine legislators, shared a difficulty in openly revealing their positions saying they are waiting for consultations with their constituents.
Legal Committee chairperson Jacob Oboth Oboth said that his committee was going to do a critical Job on the bill with a view of giving Ugandans value for money. He acknowledged that the game of numbers would come when the committee is voting on contentious clauses or recommendations to parliament.
However, he noted that his duty will be to provide leadership and ensure that consensus is reached in the process.
Oboth-Oboth declined to reveal his position on the bill saying that it would bias people who are to appear to speak for or against the amendment.
Opposition Whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said they had already demystified the issue of numbers. He explained that the reason why security personnel had to be called in last week to eject those opposed to the amendment before a bill being tabled for the first reading was testimony that the opposition can deal with the numbers.