Wednesday, August 22, 2012
PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE IN UGANDA
Source: The Office of the Clerk to Uganda Parliament The Parliament of Uganda derives its mandate from the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The primary function of Parliament as provided for in Article 79 of the Constitution is to legislate on any matter for the peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda. This function is mainly executed through Parliamentary debates or deliberations. Debates arise by way of a substantive motion or item on the Order Paper as regulated by the Rules of Procedure. ISSUES THAT MAY ATTRACT PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES Debates are an opportunity for Members of Parliament (MPs) to discuss Government policy, proposed new laws and current issues. It allows MPs to voice the concerns and interests of their constituents. Members of Parliament can also speak about issues brought to their attention by the public. Debates are designed to assist MPs to reach an informed decision on any subject matter. Parliamentary debates are normally concluded by way of voting. RULES OF DEBATE IN THE HOUSE Debates in Parliament are regulated by the Rules of Procedure which are formulated in accordance to article 94 of the Constitution. GENERAL AUTHORITY OF THE SPEAKER DURING DEBATE The Speaker is mandated to preside over debates in the House and to regulate the discussions. During any Sitting of Plenary, the Mace id placed on the Table, in front of the Speaker as a symbol of authority. The ruling of the Speaker on any matter is final, and his or her decision upon any point, shall not be reviewed by the House except as provided for in the Rules. SITTING ARRANGEMENT IN THE HOUSE During a Parliamentary Sitting: Members of the Party in Government sit on the right hand side of the Speaker. Members of the Opposition Party (ies) in the House sit on the left hand side of the Speaker. Independent Members will have notified the Speaker in writing about the side of the House they wish to sit. ORDER IN THE HOUSE The Speaker has a duty to maintain order in the House. When the Speaker is addressing the House, and Member standing shall immediately resume his/her seat. A Member wishing to speak shall rise from his or her seat in a bid to get the Speaker’s attention – this is known as ‘catching the Speaker’s eye.’ With the Speaker’s indulgence, a Member unable to conveniently stand by reason of sickness or disability may be permitted to speak while seated. The Speaker is referred to as Mr/Madam Speaker. A Minister is referred to by his/her Ministerial title. A Member is referred to as ‘Honourable’ together with the name of his or her constituency represented by the Member, that is, ‘the Honourable Member for…’ Where a Member has already been referred to as described above, he or she may be further referred to as ‘My Honourable Friend’ or ‘The Honourable Gentleman, Lady or Member.’ No Member shall speak more than once to any motion except in Committees. A Member who has spoken to a motion may again be heard, for the purpose of explaining part of his or her speech which has been misunderstood, or exonerate his or her character or conduct if it has been maligned, but he or she must not in the process introduce new matters. The mover of a motion shall be called upon to speak to his or her motion before any other Member. INTERRUPTIONS OF DEBATE When a Member is holding the floor, other Members must listen in silence. However, interruptions of debate are only allowed on the following: By point of order being raised; By a matter of privilege suddenly arising; Upon a point of information or elucidation (explanation) or clarification; Upon a point of procedure. LIMITATIONS ON DEBATE The House may resolve to impose a limit on time in respect of the debate on any particular motion by allotting a limited period of time for such debate by limiting the time during which Members may speak by imposing both such limitations. ALLOTMENT OF TIME The Speaker may, at the commencement of the proceedings of the day or on any motion, announce the time limit he or she is to allow each Member contributing to debate and a Member who speaks beyond the allotted time may be asked to resume his or her seat. LIMITATIONS ON THE CONTENTS OF SPEECHES Un-Parliamentary Language The use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscene language or words are not allowed. Should the Speaker determine that offensive or disorderly language has been used; the Member may be required to withdraw the un-parliamentary word, phrase or statement. A Member may also raise a motion against a Member who uses un-parliamentary language. Repetition and Relevance in Debate The Rule against repetition can be invoked by the Speaker to prevent a Member from repeating arguments already made in the debate by other Members or the same Member. The rule of relevance, on the other hand, is used to keep a Member from straying from the subject matter under discussion. Reading of Speeches by Members During debate, any Member holding the floor is not allowed to: Read his or her speech, but may read extracts from written or printed documents in support of his or her argument and may refresh his or her memory by reference to notes. The Speaker may, in exceptional circumstances permit a Member to read his or her speech. The Sub Judice Rule During debate, reference shall not be made to any matter on which judicial decision is pending in such a way as may in the opinion of the Speaker, prejudice the interest of any party to the action. DISREGARD TO THE AUTHORITY OF THE SPEAKER Any Member who persistently disregards the authority of the Speaker may be named. If a Member refuses to heed the Speaker’s requests to bring his or her behavior into line with the Rules and Practices of the House, the Speaker has the authority to name the Member. In naming the Member, the Speaker addresses the Member by name rather than by constituency or title as is the usual practice. The Speaker may order his or her withdrawal from the Chamber for the remainder of the day’s Sitting. Alternatively, the Speaker may prefer to let the House take any supplementary disciplinary action it may choose out of any of the following options: Motion that a Member no longer be heard If a Member persists in irrelevance or tedious repetitions or uses objectionable words and on being called to order, fails to retract or explain the words and offer an apology to the satisfaction of the Speaker, any Member may, with the consent of the Speaker, move that the Member using the objectionable words be no longer heard, and the question on that motion shall be put forthwith without amendment or debate. Gross Misconduct The Speaker may order a Member whose conduct is grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the House or the Committee for the remainder of the day’s Sitting. The Clerk or the Sergeant – at – Arms shall act on such orders as he or she may receive from the Speaker or Chairperson, to ensure compliance. CLOSURE OF DEBATE Parliamentary debates are normally concluded by way of voting and no Member may speak on any question after it has been put by the Speaker.