By Moses Walubiri
Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has thrown down the gauntlet in her standoff with the executive over her decision to sanction a session paying tribute to fallen anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, in the absence of cabinet, ruling out the issue ever finding its way back on the Order Paper.
“It’s over, but if they want, they can do it in cabinet, not in parliament again,” a feisty Kadaga said on Wednesday moments after meeting EU head of delegation, Ambassador Kristian Schmidt.
Minister of Information, Rose Namayanja, told New Vision on Tuesday that government had taken exception to the decision by parliament to pay tribute to the former South African president without its input, describing as sacrilegious a Leader of Opposition (LOP) in Parliament moving a government motion.
Cabinet ministers have been on a three day residential retreat (it ended Tuesday), which has seen them miss two plenary sessions.
Both Kadaga and Namayanja have given contradicting accounts about the cabinet retreat and the request by the executive to reschedule Mandela’s tribute to today afternoon.
“Having Mandela’s tribute on Tuesday was at their (executive) request, but they all (ministers) disappeared without telling me,” Kadaga said, adding; “In the absence of the mover of the motion (Prime Minister) the LOP did the honors.”
Namayanja, however, avers that Kadaga was informed in time about the retreat, saying that the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi’s telephone interview with the Speaker about the retreat on Monday morning was followed up by written communication to that effect.
Namayanja’s assertion is given credence by Mbabazi’s letter to Kadaga dated 9th December, received by Deputy Clerk Parliamentary Affairs, requesting the “suspension of parliamentary session until after the cabinet retreat.”
“As a government, we are going to sit as cabinet to see how we can put on record our contribution to Mandela tribute without flouting parliamentary rules of procedure,” Namayanja told New Vision, urging that government’s request to reschedule the tribute to today was logical since Mandela’s burial is due on Sunday.
“As a country, Uganda has had a long relationship with the African National Congress (ANC) with many of their fighters buried in Nakaseke,” Namayanja said in subtle reference to the thousands of ANC fighters who received military training in Uganda during the anti-apartheid struggle.
Under parliamentary rules of procedure, the Speaker of Parliament – with occasional consultations with leader of government business – determines the Order Paper.