29 November 2012

Uganda: Oil Chaos - MPs Face Expulsion

After a chaotic oil debate in Parliament on Tuesday, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga wants the errant MPs found guilty of turning the chambers into a theatre of horseplay, expelled from the House for six months.

She has ordered an inquiry and she wants the culprits named and shamed on Monday. However MPs on the probe team; the Rules, Privileges and Discipline committee are pleading for more time. On Tuesday, the House descended into chaos during a bruising debate over the contentious clause (9) of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development, Production) Bill, 2012, which gives discretionary powers to the minister for energy to grant or revoke oil licences.

The House, deeply polarized over the matter, could neither agree to re-open debate on the clause nor vote on it, leading to a fracas, which forced the Speaker to flee the chambers. Alarmed that some lawmakers had attempted to infringe on her authority, Kadaga suspended the House until the Rules, Discipline and Privileges committee, chaired by West Budama North MP Fox Odoi completes investigations and reports back to the House by Monday.

However, Busiro East MP, Medard Sseggona, argued that if the rules of natural justice are to prevail, those accused will not have enough time to defend themselves.

"Within the limited time [two days] we cannot be able to identify them [the accused] and call them to testify. It is a short span of time," he said.

Sseggona got backing from Oyam North MP, Krispus Ayena and Rujumbura MP, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi. Earlier on, Kadaga had handed terms of reference to guide the committee during the probe. Amongst them, she wanted the committee to identify the rowdy lawmakers who attempted to grab the coveted mace from the Sergeant at Arms. A mace is a symbol of power and authority of a legislative assembly.

The Speaker also wants the Rules committee to pinpoint those who displayed rowdy behaviour summoned to defend themselves. However, right from the onset, it was clear identifying the culprits would be a monumental challenge.

Lawmakers replayed video footage of the chaotic proceedings but failed to establish who tried to grab the mace. The cameras didn't record all the tit bits. There were two versions of the recordings from the public relations office and the Hansard department. Video play backs of both didn't help the probe team's quest for the truth.

Bubulo East MP Simon Mulongo said they would try to seek evidence from the Sergeant at Arms.

"We shall speak to the Sergeant at Arms to tell us who attempted to remove the mace," said Odoi.

"At a certain point almost the whole House became rowdy. If we are to identify those who are rowdy, we may have to call half the members of the House," argued Ayena.

Ayena also suggested that the House should not suspend other business because of this incident.

"We should proceed with other matters. It entirely falls on your feet [chairperson] to convince the Speaker in a persuasive manner," said Ayena.

Odoi promised yesterday afternoon to meet the Speaker and plead with her to extend the probe deadline.

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