NRM DRAFTS NEW LAW TO SILENCE MPS
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi talks to NRM MPs at a retreat in Kyankwanzi . PHOTO BY STEPHEN WANDERA
By MERCY NALUGO & YASIIN MUGERWA (email the author)
Posted Sunday, December 4 2011 at 00:00
Five days after President Museveni attacked the 1995 Constitution and accused Parliament of sabotaging his projects, the NRM Caucus leadership has responded by drafting new rules which will among others silence critical members of the party in the House and ultimately help the President stamp his authority.
The new draft rules make it compulsory for members to vote in a particular way and binds members to support the agreed party positions in Parliament.
Any member who issues statements or leaks party information to the media and the general public without consent from the Caucus leadership commits an offence and could face expulsion and removal from party positions in Parliament.
Supporting the position of another political party [even if it’s in public interest] in a manner contrary to the aims, objectives and policies of the NRM and the Caucus attracts disciplinary proceedings against such a member(s).
While independent-minded members have described the new Caucus Rules of Procedure as unconstitutional, this newspaper understands that the draft was debated on Friday during a divided Caucus meeting at State House, Entebbe. President Museveni also attended this meeting where some lawmakers accused their leaders of dishonesty.
“This is a futile effort, the President and the NRM Caucus leaders should wake up and face the reality. Hiding behind the rules will not help in anyway. They should know that they are not the first to expel members from the party, the UPC people did it but the situation only got worse,” Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) said. “The President should not run away from the mustard seed he himself planted and has begun to germinate.”
Debating the new rules, the Deputy Attorney General Freddie Ruhindi, reportedly raised serious objections on the legality of the draft, saying several provisions need to be re-examined to ensure that they are in conformity with the Constitution and other relevant laws of Uganda.
“We can only support these rules as long as they are in conformity with the Constitution and the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act, short of that the people behind these rules will be wasting time,” said Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East). “The party can only sack me from their Caucus but not my constituency.”
Ms Cerinah Nebanda (Butalejja Woman), another independent-minded lawmaker said: “We shall not accept and they should be mindful of the fact that we are peoples’ representatives.”
The draft rules come amid growing attempts by the government to silence critical media, restrict political activities through the Public Order Management Bill, and introduce longer pre-trial detention for real and perceived enemies of the state.
The leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, yesterday described the NRM move as escapist and asked the NRM members to fight for their rights.
“It’s unfortunate to hear that some people are not happy that the 9th Parliament is working for the people of Uganda,” Mr Mafabi said. “Gagging members will stifle debate in the House and this will in the end make the 9th Parliament a waste of time.”
However, the Caucus leaders insist that “its objective is to facilitate a fair and transparent process by the Caucus for considering, generating and adopting a common position on any parliamentary business before the matter is tabled for debate in the House.”
The other objective is to strengthen internal cohesion within and amongst the Caucus members so as to give full effect to the appreciation of group merit in a multiparty democracy.