Legislators on the Committee of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs are divided on the proposal within the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019 to establish a panel of speakers.
The bill moved by Ndorwa MP, Hon Wilfred Niwagaba proposes a panel of three speakers to assist the sitting speakers of Parliament in transaction of Parliament’s business arguing that it is tiring for a Speaker to chair the House for more than six hours as is the case currently. “The Speaker and Deputy
Speaker are human beings like any other person on earth. They get different engagements and also become exhausted; they need time to refresh yet Parliament’s business should not be affected,” said Hon Niwagaba.
Niwagaba made his proposals while was appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on Thursday, 23 January 2020.
He said that the speakers being proposed would be at the level of parliamentary committee chairpersons, and thus would not attract an extra charge on the consolidated fund.
“This proposal is intended to have specified persons as members of Parliament who can be called upon to assist the speaker when need arises” said Niwagaba.
This sparked dissenting views among legislators with a section of MPs rejecting the proposal that speakers would simply be called upon to chair sessions as and when need arises.
Hon Jovah Kamateeka (Mitooma District) said that the decisions made by these speakers would be doubted.
“Will the decisions of such speakers who are not facilitated financially and simply called upon to chair sessions be taken seriously?” she asked.
The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon Jacob Oboth Oboth said that it was ‘unattractive’ to have a constitutional amendment if the proposed panel is to be selected from committee chairpersons when need arises.
Bugweri County MP, Hon Abdu Katuntu rejected the proposal on the election of a panel of speakers saying it would cause discord in the leadership of Parliament.
“The speaker needs a panel she can closely work with; don’t bring this into elections. It will be another problem in the leadership of Parliament,” Katuntu said.
To allay the fears of legislators, Niwagaba said the aim of the bill is to introduce a panel of speakers in the Constitution and have details such as qualifications of the speaker, the way they will run business debated on a later stage and enclosed in Parliament’s Rules of Procedures.
The bill also proposes expansion of the category of the citizenry that can challenge a presidential election. If the bill is passed into law, any voter who can gather 100 signatures from 2/3 of districts in Uganda is liable to challenge the presidential elections.