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Relationships should not bar appointments

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th November 2002 03:00 AM

The only legal basis on which the Parliamentary Appointments Committee can rely to block the appointment of anybody as a member of the Electoral Commission (EC) is the failure of that person to satisfy the criterion set up by the relevant provision of the

The Other Side of the Coin with Paul Waibale Senior

The only legal basis on which the Parliamentary Appointments Committee can rely to block the appointment of anybody as a member of the Electoral Commission (EC) is the failure of that person to satisfy the criterion set up by the relevant provision of the Constitution.

In the case of Hajati Aisha Lubega the parliamentary committee rejected her nomination by President Museveni on the ground that her husband, Badru Lubega, is chairman of the Education Service Commission. Consequently, the immediate question to ask is whether the position of Badru Lubega as chairman of the Education Service Commission violates Aisha Lubega’s qualification under the terms prescribed by the Constitution.

In order to answer that question we have to look at the relevant constitutional provision. Article 60(2) of the Constitution states: “Members of the commission (meaning the Electoral Commission) shall be persons of high moral character, proven integrity, and who possess considerable experience and demonstrated competence in the conduct of public affairs.”

Obviously, the parliamentary committee must have arrogated to itself the duty of re-writing that particular provision of the constitution to include the extraneous qualification that a member of the EC must not be a close relative of somebody holding a big post in another statutory body.

This adventure was mounted specifically to create grounds for rejecting Aisha Lubega’s appointment, despite the legal situation which dictates that the Constitution cannot be amended save by an Act of Parliament, the sole purpose of which is to amend the Constitution.

The MPs’ adventure is, besides being ultra vires the Constitution, mounted outside the orbit of logic and common sense. In my view, it is so glaringly absurd that anybody endowed with the gift of assessing public reaction, let alone an MP, would have been ashamed of being a party to its advancement. This perhaps explains why MPs who had the audacity to proclaim sympathy for that school of thought cowardly took refuge behind the veil of unanimity.

Nevertheless, it is prudent to examine the MPs’ overtly crude thesis for what it is worth. I, for one, would wish to learn from the MPs why the sun consistently continued to rise in the east when Aisha Lubega as headmistress of Nabisunsa was engaged in a post for which the Education Service Commission is directly responsible.

Why should anybody imagine that the earth will cease rotating if Aisha leaves the job directly under the commission headed by her husband to join another commission that is absolutely outside the sphere of his influence?

In any case, the parliamentary committee’s hypothesis does not tally with internationally accepted practice. It does not, for example, give due respect to the relevant US senate committee approved President John F. Kennedy’s appointment of his brother, Robert Kennedy as attorney general of the United States. Even today, no American is bothered by the fact that Jeb Bush is governor of Florida while his elder brother George Bush is president of the United States.

Back home, nobody in his normal mental state will question the fact that Salim Saleh is a liuetenant-general in the army of which his brother Lt-Gen Yoweri Museveni is commander-in-chief. And no MP has ever proposed that Minister Kutesa should not be a member of the Cabinet headed by President Museveni merely because Kutesa’s daughter is married to Museveni’s son.

I have always firmly contended that somebody’s close relation with people in authority must never be a qualification for appointment to any post. But I equally contend that the existence of such relationship must never be a basis for disqualifying such a person from an appointment for which he or she holds the necessary qualification and individual merit.

I submit, that rather than resort to threats of motions of censure against Miria Matembe, members of the parliamentary appointments committee should converge and take a second look at the issue of Aisha Lubega’s appointments. I believe there is an ample opportunity for them to discover that their decision was misconceived and must be rescinded.

Incidentally, I find it necessary to add this epilogue. One contributor to one of the FM radio debates amused me when he argued that the Baganda must not be excited by the fact that a Muganda had been appointed chairman of the Electoral Commission. He claimed that this was a ploy to keep Baganda experts at home while the westerners are sent to take over fat jobs abroad.

Interestingly, another contributor urged Muslims not to be amused that a Muslim had been appointed to head the Electoral Commission because he would also be thrown out in disgrace just as Aziz Kasujja.

My simple explanation to those who nurse such absurd ideas is that the appointment of Prof Badru Kigundu to head the EC was not consigned for the excitement of Baganda, Muslims, or engineers, for that matter. I am neither a Muganda nor a Muslim nor an engineer; but I accord that appointment a tick without any reservation.

Relationships should not bar appointments

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