11 October 2012

Kenya: MPs on the Spot Over Copter Crash Claims

A lawyer appearing before the commission probing the June 10 helicopter crash in Ngong wants MPs who have made remarks on the possible cause of the accident be summoned to testify.

Evans Monari, appearing for the police department, said the privileges enjoyed by Parliament cannot supersede the Constitution and public interest.

He mentioned Cabinet minister James Orengo's assassination remarks and said MPs were not ordinary citizens. "This is a serious matter and in this case public interest outweighs Parliament immunity," said Monari

Several MPs made remarks in Parliament while debating the aftermath of the crash that killed former Internal Security minister George Saitoti and his deputy Orwa Ojodeh. Pilots Nancy Gituanja, Luke Oyugi and police bodyguards Joshua Tonkei and Thomas Murimi also perished in the crash.

The MPs mentioned at the commission by Monari include Gideon Konchella, Kiema Kilonzo, William Kabogo, Harun Mwau, Rachael Shebesh, Jakoyo Midiwo. Others are Nkoidila ole Lankas and William Ruto.

Presiding judge at the commision Kalpana Rawal agreed with Monari's application over people's supremacy and requested for further consultations over the issue saying it has "far-reaching consequences" especially on Parliament privileges.

Leadc ounsel Lucy Kambuni said they are ready to record statements from any Kenyan, including MPs who, have information regarding the accident.

"We cannot do much but since we are in last fortnight of presenting witnesses we can only ask anyone with information to avail themselves to the Commission," said Kambuni

Presiding Judge Rawal said the Commission has been deliberating on the matter and said on Sep 19, they wrote to three Mps individually through the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly requesting for the appearances of the MPs.

"The Commission has been in communication with the Speaker....unfortunately there has been no response," said Rawal Saitoti family lawyer Fred Ngatia requested for a day or two for them to look into the issues raised and come up with a solid position that would not jeopardize the process.

The Judge ruled that the issue be revisited on Friday at 9am in the open forum. Later at the hearings, an air traffic controller at the Wilson Control Tower John Luwimbu Minjo said pilots requested to leave at 8.29am and took off at 8.32am.

He said the pilots called at 8.38am that they were reaching the control zone boundary and the caller wished him a "good day." He said he never received a distress call until 9.05am when head of Kenya Police Airwing Rodgers Mbithi called to know whether the control tower was still in communication with the aircraft.

Minjo was witness number 46 and the commission has two weeks to receive evidence from the prepared witnesses according to the programme.

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