Attorney General, Legal Committee Lock Horns Over Opposition Amendment Bill

The Attorney General William Byaruhanga on Wednesday February 19, 2020 came under fire for failing to present a response on a raft of constitutional amendments proposed by the Opposition under the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Byaruhanga together with the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ephraim Kamuntu were expected to avail the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee with a response to the proposed amendments tabled by Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba.

Some of the proposals that require government response include scraping the representation of the army in Parliament, repeal of the office of Prime Minister and Vice President, reinstatement of presidential term limits, prohibiting the appointment of Ministers from among MPs and others.

However, Byaruhanga told the committee that his office was not ready to respond to the amendments saying that they touch a number of Constitutional provisions and require enough time for a comprehensive response.

He appealed to the committee for more time to respond to the proposed amendments suggesting that his ministry is instead allowed to give responses to other Bills like the Amendment of the Administrator General’s Act, Succession Act, the Administration of Estates (Small Estates) Act, Estates of Missing Persons (Management) Act and the Probate Resealing Act.

Byaruhanga said that his office was of the view that when the five proposed laws are dealt with, then they can embark on the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

His submission angered MPs led by Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda who wondered why the Attorney General was giving advice to the committee on how to handle its work.

Kaberamaido Woman MP Veronica Elagu Biketero weighed in saying that the letter inviting the Attorney General was clear and required him to respond to the proposed constitutional amendments as well as the other laws before the committee.

Niwagaba, the author of the Bill said that the impression that the office of the Attorney General was giving concerning the amendments seemed like they are not ready to respond. He noted that this is the third time the Attorney General is failing to give his response.

The Ndorwa East MP suggested to the committee that it proceeds with receiving the input of other stakeholders and leave out the response of the Attorney General.

Jacob Oboth, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chairperson also highlighted the previous invites sent out to the Attorney General concerning the matter and his requests for postponement. He noted that Constitutional matters where urgent and take precedent over other Bills being processed by his committee and that they were to proceed with other submissions.

But Byaruhanga put up defense saying that he was not trying to give the committee advice on how to handle business before it but was interested in a dialogue with a view of finding a middle ground and give the Bill the attention it deserves.

The committee made the decision to proceed with receiving submissions from other stakeholders.




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