(DailyNewsUg) “Please be informed that there will not be plenary sitting today.”
Thats is what the message read from Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige about the suspension of the debate. The parliamentary sitting that was due to discuss the bill that seeks to raise the retirement age of judges and remove term limits for electoral commissioners was suspended indefinitely at the last minute yesterday under unclear circumstances.
No reason was given for the last minute change of heart. Yesterday’s session was expected to debate and later grant or deny Nakifuma MP Robert Kafeero Ssekitooleko permission to table his private member’s constitutional amendment bill, that among other things seeks to raise the judges’ retirement age and also lift the term limits for commissioners of the Independent Electoral Commission (EC).
But to the opposition, this bill is seen as a ploy by the ruling NRM to remove the clause that caps the presidential age limit at 75. Ssekitooleko tabled his motion on August 25, and Speaker Jacob Oulanyah deferred debate on the motion to yesterday (Tuesday) at 2pm.
After adjourning the house last week, Oulanyah travelled to Omoro, his home district, to beef up the NRM camp ahead of last Monday’s election for LC-V chairman and Woman MP.
According to sources close to Oulanyah, after the elections, he chose to stay upcountry despite repeated calls from his boss, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, to return and chair yesterday’s session.
Oulanyah, who has previously accused Kadaga of dodging sensitive business, is understood to have told the speaker that he was scheduled to attend the burial of a father of one of his campaign agents in Omoro yesterday.
On many occasions during the ninth parliament, controversial political debates were handled by Oulanyah, resulting in him being branded NRM’s hatchet man in parliament.
Appearing on a TV talk-show discussing the bill last week, former minister and MP Miria Matembe said it was noteworthy that Kadaga is often absent when heated political matters are up for debate in parliament. A source close to Kadaga told us that the speaker who had just returned from Mauritius could not chair the House without a brief from Oulanyah.
“There was a different speaker [Oulanyah] last week and since [Kadaga] came back [from Mauritius] at midnight, she didn’t know she was supposed to chair the house today,” the source said. “Under normal circumstances, the person who chaired the house last week is supposed to give her a brief,” the source added.