Voters from six constituencies will not have their say on lifting of Presidential Age Limit represented after their MPs were thrown out of Parliament by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
This followed unending chaos that marred the plenary sitting during the reading of a report by the Chairperson Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Markson Oboth Oboth.
After adjourning the House, Kadaga lived true to her morning threats of suspending MPs and went ahead to read names of six MPs; Jonathan Odur (Erute South), Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West), Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality), Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality), Anthony Akol (Kilak North) and Mubarak Munyagwa (Kawempe South)
In her earlier ruling Speaker warned MPs not misbehave and particularly pointed out MPs who had been earlier suspended, saying she wouldn’t hesitate suspending them, this time for seven sittings.
Consequently, Munyagwa, Ssewanyana and Odur have fallen victim to the seven sittings suspension, while their three counterparts have been suspended for three sittings.
However, the suspended MPs didn’t take the punishment lightly, with many attacking the Speaker for acting ‘irregularly’ and wondering why she read the names of MPs to be suspended after adjourning the House.
Munyagwa remarked: “I think the Speaker is mistake. I want to talk to her otherwise you can’t mantle voices of reason. I am shocked that the people who say they believe in debate aren’t allowing debate to prevail.”
As for Karuhanga, he said Kadaga had abused the rules for which she is custodian, and wondered how she could suspend him after adjourning the House.
Akol said: “The speaker is contradicting herself; we are going to deal with her in an abnormal way. Whether I am inside or not, we shall fight together with the people of Uganda.”
Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko said that NRM is using suspension to gag and threaten MPs opposed to lifting of age limit against raising technicalities on both the Bill and report.
“I urge restraint to the Speaker that this is a trying moment. Let us play on leveled ground. It is a micro-long approach. As much as you think you are in a hurry, listen to us,” Nsereko said.
Samuel Odonga of the Otto Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) termed Kadaga’s action as a well calculated move by NRM to gag debate on the now-controversial bill.
“It was well rehearsed in caucus and now they are playing it live in the House. There are many things we want to raise for instance, the report was signed in State House, they signed the report under gun fire, since when did Parliament reports get signed in State House?” Odonga asked rhetorically.
James Kaberuka, the Kinkizi County MP, described Kadaga’s decision to suspend MPs as a way of gagging MPs, wondering what would happen to Ugandans if their representatives can be treated in such a manner.
NRM’s Margaret Muhanga on the other hand commended Kadaga’s move saying it was wrong for the Opposition MPs to raise matters of procedures continuously.
“They wanted to derail and stifle debate in Parliament. This is an eye opener to the others that if they return (in the afternoon) and misbehave, they will be suspended,” Muhanga said.
Her ruling party colleague Simeo Nsubuga praised Kadaga’s ruling, criticizing MPs for ‘acting to the media cameras’. He said their actions on the floors were mere show off antics.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister Frank Tumwebaze said there was ‘nothing wrong with what Kadaga did’ since the suspended MPs were merely flip-flopping rules they couldn’t even comprehend.
“The Speaker is asserting her authority. No one should use rowdy behavior. It isn’t a matter of running around to show that you are important. I can see them struggle deny debate using flimsy reason,” Tumwebaze said.
By press time, the suspended MPs were holding a closed door meeting with Leader of Opposition Winfred Kiiza.