29 November 2012

Uganda: Kadaga Slams Unruly MPs in Chaotic Oil Debate

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has suspended Parliament indefinitely following Tuesday's incident where MPs became rowdy and others attempted to grab the mace.

She has with that effect directed the committee on rules, privileges and discipline to investigate the matter.

Kadaga vowed to have those who disrupted the House punished. She asked the Government and opposition MPs to resolve their differences before the House resumes.

On Tuesday, the House adjourned prematurely after a group of MPs became unruly, protesting the revisit of clause 9 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2012, which gives the energy minister powers to grant and revoke oil licenses.

"I am suspending the work of the House until the committee on rules has made a report. I am asking them to work expeditiously and report on Monday," Kadaga ordered.

"Sanctions will be done on those who disrupted the proceedings," she said and instructed the committee on rules to view the video recordings of Tuesday's sitting and identify those who disrupted the proceedings.

Kadaga explained that the House could not continue with business on Wednesday before dealing with the Tuesday incident as this would set a bad precedent.

"I would like to condemn that conduct and behaviour. It is below the dignity of MPs. Parliament is a political arena, where we have to engage in debate in a civil manner. We have to conduct ourselves in an orderly and disciplined manner," Kadaga said.

"During the debate, the House degenerated into a mob and others attempted to reach the mace. In a debate, there are people who support and those who oppose and we have to negotiate. It is a democracy. Where no consensus is reached, voting is done," the Speaker added, stressing that she was committed to steering the House in a proper manner.

Some MPs appeared shocked by her decision and vow to punish culprits.

Speaking to New Vision, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi backed the Speaker's move to discipline unruly MPs.

"It would be a travesty of parliamentary democracy to continue business as usual without the Speaker taking corrective measure. I fully support her position. I hope appropriate measures will be taken so that discipline will be restored," Mbabazi said.

Ahmed Kagoye, the Sergeant at Arms, told New Vision that it amounts to misconduct for an MP to grab the mace. An MP who does so is liable for disciplinary action by the House.

"It is not a criminal matter. The committee on rules and privileges, if directed by the Speaker, investigates the matter and makes a recommendation to the House," Kagoye said.

He observed that the mace is a symbol of authority of the Speaker and the House.

Fox Odoi, the chairman of the committee on rules, said an MP, who is guilty of misconduct in the House, could be suspended from the House without pay for six months, reprimanded or cautioned by the speaker.

He said his 18-member committee would view the video footage and look at other evidence.

"We shall not condemn anybody before giving them a fair hearing. We can complete the report on Monday, but if we cannot, we shall seek an extension," Odoi asserted.

Deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhindi said: "We cannot continue like that without takings serious sanction. It will set a dangerous precedent because every time people don't agree, they will resort to violence. It is not the way to conduct business."

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