By Joyce Namutebi and Henry Sekanjako
Absence of ministers from Parliament plenary Wednesday angered Members of Parliament, who in turn warned the Executive against frustrating the work of the House.
Parliament proceedings were bogged down for close to two hours because no member of the front bench had showed up in the House, where MPs were raising ‘matters of national importance.’
Parliament started proceedings at about 3pm, an hour later than the scheduled time. However, after communication from Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, Kawempe South MP Sebuliba Mutumba (DP) raised a procedural concern as to who was going to respond to issues raised by members since the front bench was empty.
MPs continued raising issues until another MP asked the Speaker whether it was procedurally right for them to continue raising issues when there were no ministers to respond to them. This prompted Kadaga to suspend the House for ten minutes.
Upon suspension of the House, opposition MPs abandoned their seats and crossed to the NRM side and occupied the front bench reserved for ministers.
When Parliament resumed at about 3.45 pm, it was only the Deputy Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi and state minister for relief and disaster, Musa Ecweru, something that did not go well with the opposition.
Ken Lukyamuzi (CP) immediately sought to know from them as to why there was no government representative at the start of plenary.
Ruhindi’s explanation that these were “symptoms of a hard working government” did not amuse MPs who called for order in the House. Ruhindi had said, “We have three arms of government, Judiciary, Parliament and the Executive. To me, these are symptoms of a hard working government when you find judiciary, government busy.”
Winnie Kiiza said, “We believe that a government that cares should be there to guide debate. The Constitution indicates that we have three arms of government, but it doesn’t say that the Executive sits out of parliament.”
She noted that MPs have important business that requires attention of the Leader of Government Business and the ministers. Is it in order for the Attorney General to say that ministers are busy for this sitting and then later they will come to hurry us with other business?”
Referring to the Speaker’s communication on Tuesday Kassiano Wadri asked, “Have messages been sent from powers that be that they should not come in order to frustrate the operation of Parliament?” Kadaga had called for mutual respect between the two arms of government.
Wadri noted that the minister will still get their pay even if they have not come and that this is a sign of corruption. “Even the ex-officios who are an extra baggage are not here. We should take serious note of this. This is a calculated move. We should not allow the executive to frustrate Parliament,” Wadri said.
Ruhindi assured the MPs that the members of Cabinet had requested Parliament to bear with them because they were winding up some business.
With this assurance, Parliament proceeded to scrutinise the Industrial Property Bill since, Ruhindi, who is also the sector minister was around to defend it.
In her communication, Kadaga announced that the chairman of the People’s Republic of China is visiting Uganda on September 17 and asked MPs to be ready to receive him and his delegation.
Also MPs who had been suspended from Parliament by Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah returned to the House. They included: Beatrice Anywar (FDC) and Ibrahim Ssemujju (DP).