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Lawyers weigh in on Parliament sh10b saga

By Vision Reporters

Added 26th April 2020 05:06 PM

Lawmakers joined Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in talking down the opinion of the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, warning them against disobeying the court order.

Lawyers weigh in on Parliament sh10b saga

Lawmakers during plenary. (File photo)

Lawmakers joined Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in talking down the opinion of the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, warning them against disobeying the court order.

POLITICS  LAW

KAMPALA - Parliament's controversial sh10b allocation to fight the coronavirus has set the institution at a collision path with the Judiciary, over a High Court order barring utilisation of the money, until the manner in which the kitty was appropriated is determined.

On Thursday, lawmakers joined Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in talking down the opinion of the Attorney General, William Byaruhanga, warning them against disobeying the court order and punching holes in the merits of the case set for hearing on April 29.

Parliament is currently at crossroads with an April 21 interim order by Justice Esta Nambayo, stopping the parliamentary commission from disbursing the sh10b to MPs as prayed for by Ntungamo Municipality MP, Gerald Karuhanga, who argues the allocation breached the institution's rules of procedure. 

Nambayo said, in the event that MPs had received the money, they should not use it until court determines the main case. Kadaga had initially invited Byaruhanga to advise the House on how to deal with the sh10b, part of which, 426 MPs were each paid sh20m. 

Byaruhanga had opined that if the parliamentary commission sent out the money before issuing of the court order, the ruling would have been overtaken by events, but individual MPs that would utilise the money after the court order would be held in contempt of court. 

However, a visibly enraged Kadaga roundly rejected the view and instead castigated the AG for encouraging the judiciary to "overrun and scandalise Parliament," over the cash that has caused public outrage. 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN? 

To predict the outcome, observers have noted that, Parliament's public display of utter disrespect of the Judiciary - another arm of the state and the views of the AG, sets a bad precedent and undermines the cardinal principle of the doctrine of separation of powers that the legislator purports to uphold.

"We should be cautious of the mind of the rule of law in whatever we do as leaders and the lack of it sets a bad precedent. What Parliament did weakens the Judiciary yet Parliament makes the laws within which courts operate. 

So, undermining the judiciary is bad in every sense. The title honorable means you should behave honorably but, unfortunately, anything to do with Parliament and money; MPs would rather lose the reputation. Parliament has decided to violet court orders purporting that they are upholding the doctrine of separation of powers, but in real sense, it was Parliament trampling upon that cardinal principle," Cissy Kagaba a lawyer and Executive Director, Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda said

CATFIGHT - MATEMBE

 Miriam Matembe, the Chairperson Citizens Coalition on Electoral Democracy Uganda (CCEDU), said: "Being a lawyer, the Speaker should have known better but she decided to set the facts aside and engage in a catfight as a way of offloading her shameful position on an entirely innocent party. 

Personal attacks on the Attorney General and fellow MPs was disrespectful and speaks volumes to the fact that she lost the battle in the public court. Parliament has now lost the power to check the Executive and all it cares for is its selfish interests."

 Kadaga had earlier in her communication, issued guidelines on how to spend the sh20m and requested that they should submit accountabilities to the Clerk to Parliament and district Chief Administrative Officers, effectively giving the lawmakers a nod to use the money.

‘Check each other' Makerere University, law don, Yusuf Nsibambi, argues that the doctrine of separation of powers doesn't presuppose that an institution acts independently in total disregard of checks and balances from the other arms of Government. 

"It means you have to check each other and act harmoniously. The legislature and executive have so much power so it is the judiciary that checks the two on behalf of the people so to undermine it is to undermine the people. Even if the court order is irregular, you don't disobey it but appeal against it. So, I think Kadaga was not in order. The AG's opinion is binding on all institutions of the Government," said Nsibambi. 

Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Secretary-General Nandala Mafabi said on social media, on Wednesday: "I have been monitoring my account, as soon as I received the sh20m parceled by Parliament, I added on sh10m and forwarded it to Buwalasi Health Centre as promised.

" Parliament's appropriation of the money is a clear manifestation that there is a problem pointing to a break down in the system of governance, according to Godber Tumushabe of Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies.

"The Executive allocates its self-monies the way it wants and when it can't have it its way, it bribes the MPs to do it. What we are seeing, including passing money without debate, is a conspiracy between MPs and the Executive to steal taxpayer's money.

What this means is that courts and the judiciary are now a phased out institution because the other two are ganging up against the people and the courts. Kadaga long surrendered the independence of Parliament. So, without the Legislature providing cover to the Judiciary, it means the two institutions are not there in substance," Tumushabe said. 

DISOBEYING COURT

Founding partner at Kirunda & Wasige Advocates, Robert Kirunda, said Parliament had the chance to handle the situation better but it blew it when it went against the AG that it had invited to present his opinion on the matter. 

"When there is a court order you disagree with, you seek to set it aside through an appeal, you don't disobey it. The Legislator and Executive are not mutually exclusive in the doctrine of separation of powers but the Constitution protects the Judiciary from the other two. 

The challenge is, for the two principles, Speaker and the Attorney General, to disagree publically, that didn't look good, yet there are other avenues through which they should have discussed the contradictions," Kirunda said. 

The money has drawn mixed reactions from the Opposition that usually rejects such monies, with the Opposition Chief Whip Ssemujju Nganda and Francis Mijukye spearheading those that want to use the money. 

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