The speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga has fired back at the government chief whip, Ruth Nankabirwa over comments she made following the failure of parliament to convene a special sitting for fallen former attorney general and Buruuli County MP, Peter Nyombi.
The late Nyombi's body was only brought to parliament to lie in state for MPs and the public to pay their last respects. This was a break away from the tradition as parliament usually convenes special sittings for fallen sitting and former MPs to be eulogized.
The former attorney general, 64, succumbed to heart failure at SAS Clinic along Bombo road in Kampala, on Sunday evening. The motion to pay tribute to the late Nyombi is to be tabled before parliament when MPs return from recess on November 6, 2018. Kadaga and Nyombi who served as attorney general between 2011 and 2015 did not have the best of working relationships.
During his tenure, Kadaga and Nyombi clashed first when Nyombi sided with lawyer Severino Twinobusingye who challenged parliament over its decision to force three ministers Amama Mbabazi, Sam Kutesa and Hilary Onek to resign over oil bribery allegations.
The two were to later again fall out in 2013 when Nyombi, as government legal adviser said that the three rebel ruling party MPs, Theodore Ssekikubo, Winfred Niwagaba and Muhammed Nsereko be expelled from parliament - contrary to Kadaga's ruling.
Below is speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s statement on the issue.
Let’s stick to the parliamentary calendar in the conduct of House business
I would like to clarify comments attributed to the government chief whip, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa, where she is reported to have said that the reason MPs did not pay tribute to the former attorney general and former Buruuli County MP was because the speaker and the deputy speaker were away on official duty.
The remarks are far from true and unfortunately have been widely picked up by mainstream media and social media forums. At the beginning of the third session, we had a Business Committee meeting where we approved the calendar for the third session of parliament.
The Business Committee is composed of the speaker; the deputy speaker; the leader of government business; the leader of the opposition; the government chief whip; the chief opposition whip; other party whips; two independent members of parliament; and all committee chairpersons.
In that calendar, parliament was to be in session between 6th June and 10th October for the first meeting. It should be noted that the calendar for the third session was approved by the entire House.
The calendar had three meetings and it also indicates when the House would be in recess. The recess commenced on the day when the Rt. Hon. deputy speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, adjourned the House on Thursday, 04 October 2018.
The first meeting of the third session was dedicated to legislation and it run from 6 June to 10 October 2018. The second meeting of the third session will run from 15 November 2018 to 19 March 2019. This will be dedicated to the consideration of the reports of standing and sectoral committees, including annual reports of agencies.
The third meeting of the third session will run from 20 March 2019 to 31 May 2019. This will be dedicated to the budget matters and will end on 31 May 2019 with the prorogation.
It should be noted that the only persons entitled to lie in state and have a tribute are the sitting members of parliament and national leaders, like the president, and any others who the government will have proposed.
In the 9th parliament, on the 17th February 2014, I wrote to the Rt. Hon. prime minister and copied the principal private secretary to H.E. the president asking him to advise the speaker the category of other leaders or important persons that are entitled to lie in state because there is no criteria.
Up to today, I am still waiting for a reply to that letter. (The letter is hereby attached.) It is therefore not correct for the government chief whip to state that the reason the special sitting did not take place was because the speaker and deputy speaker were away on official business.
During recess, MPs are supposed to be in their constituencies, and both the speaker and deputy speaker are also MPs, and they plan their activities based on the calendar of parliament.
It is unfair for Hon. Nankabirwa to attempt to direct parliament to convene in the recess without an overwhelming reason. When I was sent a letter requesting for the fallen member to be extended this courtesy, I recommended that parliament would pay tribute to Hon. Nyombi at the beginning of the second meeting in November.
I thought this was adequate. Government however insisted the body should be brought to parliament for the public to pay their respects. So, I granted the request as we await the commencement of the second meeting of the third session when the family will be invited and tribute paid.
This is therefore to set the record straight and to remind our stakeholders, that parliament has its schedule and it should not be dictated upon.