Milton Olupot and Hillary Nsambu
OPPOSITION MPs stormed out of Parliament yesterday over the controversial issue of the Peopleâ€™s Redemption Army (PRA) suspects, a day before the High Court is to hear an application by the government against their release on bail.
MPs led by opposition leader, Prof. Ogenga Latigo, walked out of the chamber, protesting the continued detention of the suspects and abuse of human rights.
â€œAs MPs sent to Parliament by people who expect us to defend the Constitution, we must show maximum displeasure at what has been happening to the orders of the court,â€ he said. â€œUntil we resolve this issue, we shall withdraw our services from the house.â€
He told the press later that this was not only about the PRA suspects but about Ugandans who are deliberately and maliciously denied their fundamental rights on account of their beliefs.
The opposition chief whip, Kassiano Wadri explained: â€œWe have not marched out of Parliament as an institution but we have taken leave from Parliament business as long as the issues that have forced us to march out have not been addressed.â€
Earlier on Tuesday, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Dr. Khiddu Makubuya, told the legal and parliamentary affairs committee he first had to brief Cabinet before he could make a public statement on the PRA issue.
He, however, assured the committee that the government was committed to respecting the decisions of the court.
â€œThe impression created by the media and those who discuss this matter, that government is not committed to the rule of law is erroneous,â€ said Makubuya, who was flanked by internal affairs minister Ruhukana Rugunda.
The government argues that the defence lawyers did not follow the right procedures in securing a court order for the suspectsâ€™ release. They claim the production warrant they produced is not sufficient to order their release.
But the defence claims they were blocked when they tried to secure a court order to release them. â€œWe got an extraction decree, which is the first step to secure the court order, which needed to be signed by the Solicitor-General,â€ commented David Mpanga.
â€œBut he has not signed it up to now. We could not sit back and wait so we went ahead securing a production warrant instead. It is wrong for the government to stick to technicalities in matters of human rights.â€
The High Court will decide today on an application by the government to set aside the production warrant and to review its earlier decision to grant the suspects bail.
The High Court granted bail to the 14 suspects on November 16, 2005 arguing that bail was automatic.
The government, however, asked for a review of that decision, based on a ruling by the Constitutional Court that bail for treason is not mandatory.
The suspects face charges of treason and concealing information on treason in the High Court and for illegal possession of firearms in the Court Martial.
Three PRA suspects were released two weeks ago under the Amnesty Act after they confessed and renounced armed rebellion.
Eight others were never granted bail because they could not come up with the required sureties.
Opposition MPs walk out over PRA suspects