The race for Speaker of the 11th Parliament got explosive as the matter was dragged into Wednesday’s plenary sitting as a section of MPs took on Government Chief Whip, Ruth Nankabirwa, who is openly campaigning for Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah.
After two terms as deputy to Rebecca Kadaga (Kamuli Woman), Oulanyah who is also the MP for Omoro county wants to be the next head of the legislature.
It all started after Maurice Kibalya (Bugabula South) raised on a point of order and accused Nankabirwa of posting messages in various WhatsApp groups, telling the MPs that the Central Executive Committee (CEC) – NRM’s topmost policy organ, had decided on the ruling party’s choice of the next Speaker of Parliament.
In her messages, Kibalya said, Nankabirwa tells MPs that CEC and State House (President Yoweri Museveni) had made a point on who should be the next Speaker.
Kibalya was backed up by Gaffa Mbwatekamwa (Kasambya) who asked Kadaga to respond to the circulating information that she is not wanted by CEC.
“Madam Speaker, there is information that CEC doesn’t want you to be the Speaker of the 11th Parliament. I put it to you; is it true, Madam Speaker, that CEC does not want you to be the Speaker?” Mbwatekamwa wondered.
Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) likened the said CEC decision to “corridor whisper” since the partisan organ’s decisions are not binding to Parliament.
“We are in a multiparty dispensation, but somebody to be a Speaker becomes a Speaker for all of us, not a Speaker for NRM. I think your discussions in CEC can be pedestrian discussions, can be corridor whispers; they will not bind this House… CEC does not superimpose ideas on Parliament. I don’t think anyone of us should accept to go that direction,” Basalirwa said.
Nankabirwa told Parliament that her messages are simply to remind the MPs of the 2016 decision by CEC to have Oulanyah stand down in favour of Kadaga on condition that he would head the legislature in the term beginning in May this year.
“What I posted was a reminder of the CEC position of 2016 where CEC persuaded Hon. Oulanyah for the Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga,” Nankabirwa said before Kadaga interjected, asking her whether she wants Parliament to invite the CEC members to confirm or deny her claims.
“We can do that, this is a reminder I made, it will remain on record; there were negotiations that time, there will be negotiations this time,” the outgoing Kiboga Woman MP said.
Kadaga watered down her statements telling Parliament that Nankabirwa does not speak for CEC which last sat before the NRM primaries last year.
Kadaga further said that it is not proper for CEC to make decisions that bind Parliament.
“I don’t think CEC has a right to bind a future Parliament; before they are even elected. That is undemocratic, totally undemocratic. Stop talking about CEC here, we are talking about issues of the House…secondly, CEC last sat during the primaries, so stop issues of CEC,” Kadaga said.
Rising on a procedural point, Kira Municipality’s Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda who is also interested in becoming the next Speaker told Kadaga that she was not the right person to preside over the House discussing an issue where she is conflicted.
“Yesterday I declared my intention to stand for the office of the Speaker and every MP under the Constitution is qualified to contest for that position. Our rules here are clear on matters of conflict of interest; can you guide us whether the rules have been overthrown?” Ssemujju wondered.
“I have heard MPs here saying that “I am team Kadaga;” that disqualifies you from presiding over any debate on any matters to do with the Speakership; it means you are using the platform of Parliament to disadvantage other candidates,” the Kira Municipality MP added.
The state minister for Minerals, Sarah Opendi asked Kadaga to stop the ongoing bribery of MPs by some aspirants for Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
“When you look at what is going on now, you wonder whether this is going to be a transactional Parliament! Where are we heading to Madam Speaker? Why should people use money to become Speaker and Deputy Speaker? This house should not allow this to go on,” Opendi said.
The new Parliamentary leadership will be elected in May after the swearing-in of the new MPs scheduled for May 16 to 19.
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