The push by government to create parliamentary seats for elderly took a complicated turn as the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga told the executive that Parliament can only handle it if it is presented as a Constitutional amendment Bill.
The State Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General, Jackson Kafuuzi had moved a motion seeking the approval of additional representation of the elderly in Parliament without necessarily first amending the Constitution.
This followed a cabinet decision last week to create five seats in Parliament for representatives of the elderly from the age of 60, as a special interest group.
The motion met stiff resistance from mainly Opposition MPs who warned that Parliament risked acting outside the Constitution if it entertained the motion which requires a substative Bill to amend the Constitution.
Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba who is also the Shadow Attorney-General Wilfred Niwagaba said that Parliament cannot amend Article 78 with a mere motion.
The said Article provides for the composition of Parliament and it currently recognizes members directly elected to represent constituencies, one woman representative for every district, representatives of the army, youth, workers, and persons with disabilities.
Kalungu West MP Joseph Ssewungu also warned that any resolution of parliament to add a new category on the composition of parliament would attract litigation.
Following consultation with Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Ephraim Kamuntu and Kafuuzi, Kadaga ruled that government prepares a Bill to amend the Constitution to provide for elderly representation.
Minister Kamuntu earlier told journalists that it was important to include the elderly persons in parliament to address ‘historical imbalances.’
“During the constitution-making process, the people of Uganda emphasized that one of the main principles that should govern the composition and functioning of parliament is participatory democracy and inclusiveness and that whereas the legislature should be composed mainly of representatives directly elected by the people, due regard should be made for the representation of special interest groups that had been marginalized by society,” he said.
Parliament is expected to review the representation of special interest groups including the election of Woman MPs in cities and confirm the maintenance of the earlier representation of special interest groups including the 10 UPDF representatives, five Youth MPs, the same number for workers, and persons with disabilities.
Kadaga said that for the motion to be approved, they need 244 votes out of the current total 457 members of parliament. Currently, each plenary session attracts only 100 members following guidelines aimed at ensuring observance of physical distancing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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