Hardly a month after Speaker Rebecca Kadaga directed the Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu to prepare a substantive Constitutional amendment Bill to provide for the representation of the elderly, Parliament on Tuesday went against the ruling to hastily pass a bill providing for the inclusion of five representatives of older persons in the House.
Kadaga was in chair as Kamuntu returned to the House with a Bill to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act to provide for the extra seats in Parliament, against her own ruling that required the minister to move the House to amend Article 78 of the Constitution which spells out the composition of Parliament.
Kadaga, ironically, shot down any MPs that attempted to remind her about her ruling. For instance, Ndorwa East MP also Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba, wondered what had happened of Kadaga’s earlier directive that Kamuntu presents a Bill to amend the Constitution. He further wondered whether the ruling had been vacated to allow for presentation of a Bill amending the Parliamentary Elections Act.
In response, Kadaga said that the provision in the Parliamentary Elections Act is the same as that in the Constitution.
Presenting the Bill, Kamuntu said that the government aimed at operationalising Articles 32 (1) and 78 (1) of the Constitution by providing for the representation of older persons, and also provide for the manner of election of representatives of older persons in parliament by electoral college.
Immediately after the Bill’s first reading, Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal moved a motion for the suspension of several parliamentary Rules of Procedure that provide for a process of handling a Bill to enable them consider the piece of legislation immediately.
Usually after a Bill’s first reading, it is sent to the responsible committee for scrutiny within a period of 45 days after, which a report is presented before parliament for debate and approval.
Ogwal claimed to be speaking on behalf of millions of people who have reached the age of 60 but without anybody to cater for them, said that it was important that the House isn’t polarized because of the push to have MPs for the elderly.
Ogwal also said that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) compel countries to leave no one behind in their democratic process and that due regard should be made for the representation of older persons through the enactment of a law to facilitate the Electoral Commission (EC) to organize for their election.
The government side supported Ogwal’s motion amid protestations from Kampala Central MP, Muhammed Nsereko who argued against creating seats for special interest groups since it doesn’t necessarily address the real issues. He instead urged parliament to look into the welfare of the special interest groups like the elderly other than creating seats for them.
Nsereko was backed up by Elijah Okupa (Kasilo) who said that the elderly people are the most represented in the current government and cited several elderly officials in the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature.
Okupa said that the concerns of the elderly can easily be addressed in the current government given its composition. However, Kadag cautioned the legislators against digressing from the matter before them.
In a matter of hours, the bill was passed implying that the next Parliament will have 527 MPs.
Representatives of the older persons will be elected on the basis of regions namely, Northern, Eastern, Western and Central plus a national female older persons MP.
According to the Bill, the four regional electoral colleges shall each elect a Member of Parliament to represent the respective region and shall, after doing so, jointly elect the national woman representative for older persons.
“All members of a District Council for Older Persons within each region shall constitute an electoral college for the election of the representative of the older person in Parliament for that region. A person seeking to be elected as a representative of older persons in Parliament shall be aged at least sixty years and shall also be qualified to be a member of Parliament in terms of article 80 of the Constitution and section 4 of this Act,” reads the Bill.