Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi now plans to ask for a meeting with Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga after he abandoned the very first hearing of the House committee scrutinising his controversial presidential age limit removal bill.
For close to six hours, opposition legislators filibustered, poking holes in Magyezi’s efforts to justify his bill as the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee opened hearings yesterday. It was a re-enactment of the dramatic scenes of late September as Magyezi’s microphone was switched off and he was, again, repeatedly cut off by shouts of: “point of order, point of procedure!”
At one point, Magyezi was forced to unusually swear an oath. In the end, the MP, together with his seconders Moses Balyeku (Jinja Municipality West) and Jackson Kafuuzi (Kyaka South) stormed out in protest, denouncing the committee as “hostile”.
“We protest over the hostility, intolerance and failure to listen by a good number of members. How do you refuse to give the mover of the bill an opportunity to present? That you have someone put me on oath like it was an investigation. It was unprecedented,” Magyezi later told The Observer.
“At the end of the day, you could see a design to have me not present my bill,” Magyezi said, adding that he is not ready to appear before the committee again.
Magyezi said he is planning to meet Kadaga and Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa to propose that his matter instead be handled in the whole House.
“I have done my part and presented the bill. This is a serious matter…and members are not ready to listen to us…but I can assure you, the minute we go back to the House, this bill will pass as long as members give it a vote,” Magyezi stated.
First up were objections surrounding the authenticity of the accompanying certificate of financial implication and gazetting of the bill.
Busiro East MP Medard Sseggona lit the proceedings when he suggested that the documents presented could be forged.
He reminded colleagues that the Igara West MP is not to be trusted, having been accused of forging a report in 2013 on the wrangles within KCCA when he was vice chairman of the Public Service and Local Government committee.
“His history has been acrimonious. Him being our very own whom we have investigated before in matters relating to forgery on parliamentary record, I think it is necessary that we satisfy ourselves in telling the truth,” Sseggona said.
Jacob Oboth-Oboth then directed that the Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige and Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija write to the committee to ascertain whether Magyezi’s bill was gazetted and was given a certificate of financial implication.
It was at this point that Magyezi was forced to swear an oath. The swearing of oaths is generally done when witnesses appear before House committees investigating a matter, not with bills.
The morning session of the hearing almost fell apart when some members denounced their chairperson, Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South), accusing him of illegally processing a “smuggled bill”.
Led by Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira municipality), the MPs also forced Oboth-Oboth to move the proceedings out of the conference hall which they said was an “insecure place”.
This room, they said, was where presidential guard soldiers assembled before they invaded the chamber, beat up and violently dragged MPs out on September 27.
Ssemujju said the safety of MPs could not be guaranteed given its proximity to the Office of the President from where the Special Forces Command group emerged.
“Before they did, they were stationed in this particular room. Many members of this committee became victims of that invasion. I am going to be uncomfortable sitting in a room as enclosed as this one with a history of having turned into a camp for SFC before they invaded parliament. I am extremely vulnerable and don’t know in which direction today they are going to attack us from,” Ssemujju said.
He was supported by Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) who claimed that he was dragged into the conference hall, which had been turned into a torture chamber.
After Ssemujju moved a motion under Rule 50 (1) to switch to another room, Oboth-Oboth relented upon consultation with the sergeant-at-arms, Ahmed Kagoye. They moved to the South Committee room.
But Ssemujju was not done. He then announced that the chairman had been compromised by President Museveni at State House on September 13, and is no longer impartial.
However, this time Oboth- Oboth responded: “You have raised a serious issue against my person and integrity and the good thing is I have developed a thick skin. I am not corrupt and will never betray my conscience. Those who appear before this committee will not bribe me, including the president. I will impress the speaker that you adduce evidence that I went to State House.”
Other members then said they could not proceed because, as Niwagaba asserted, they had not been given a copy of the programme.
Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka municipality) and Sseggona insisted that the bill was illegal before them, given the events that occurred before its tabling.
Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri) pleaded with the committee leadership to listen to the majority view, calling for an internal meeting to clear the administrative issues.
“A concern has been raised and I have not heard any other voice to the contrary to that concern. I thought the chair would be trying to solicit the opinion and views of members. The bill is controversial; however where we can move together, let’s do so. What is this that it has to be done now and here?” he said, while also questioning the committee plan.
Veronica Isala Bichetero (Kaberamaido county) added, “We seem to be having one clear sentiment that we are not procedurally ready. I would request that we break off and get ready because we are raising procedural issues before house cleaning issues. Let us listen to all voices”.
One lone voice in Gaster Mugoya (Bukhooli North) accused the opposition of filibustering.
“Some members do not have any slightest iota of interest to proceed on this matter and they have pre-determined intentions to fail this process and I want to appear on record. As you are chairing this committee, have it at the back of your mind. They have done it covertly and overtly,” a visibly angry Mugoya said.
Mugoya was roundly heckled.
Sseggona said, “I don’t know why you are worried about one and a half hours … Mr Chairman, I don’t know whether you are sitting on a pistol or some sort of pressure”.
Oboth bowed to pressure and adjourned the sitting for two hours, to the chagrin of Magyezi.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire also failed to make a presentation after MPs rejected documents he presented on grounds that they were not signed.