On the 16th September 2021, the Speaker of Parliament of Uganda Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah while addressing the house announced that all business which includes bills and committee’s oversight and accountability work that had been commenced and handled by the 10th Parliament would not be considered by the 11th Parliament.
This decision sent shock waves to not only Members of Parliament but also all legal scholars and the public. The Members of Parliament especially those that had campaigned for some of these bills were dismayed. They all wondered what the status of these bill would be and what would be the effect of the Speaker’s decision. The Hon. Member of Kira Municipality Hon Semujju Ibrahim Nganda among other members of Parliament present that day echoed concerns about the same.
The suspension of the business he said was pursuant to rule 141 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament and that it was better the 11th Parliament started on clean slate. This meant that new bills and work for committees was to be introduced separate from what was being handled by the 10th Parliament.
Numerous bills such as the Sexual Offences bill, the Succession amendment bill, the Human Rights Defenders bill, the NSSF bill, the list goes on and on, have all been put on hold with no clear insight on what will happen to them. These, among other bills that were in the pipeline have been affected by this decision.
Unfortunately, I wish to note that a number of the affected bills have a significant impact on the livelihood of the public and their delay would greatly affect the people. But the questions that are troubling many including Members of Parliament are, what remains the position of some of these laws? What remains of their status?
A good example is NSSF bill that was proposing a flexible mechanism that would allow beneficiaries access their savings at a younger age. This bill was sent to the President for assent but was however returned back to Parliament for further consideration of the President’s advice. That aside, how about the bills that were waiting for their third reading and were not necessarily at committee stage? What happens to all these bills? These questions and many others need answers.
Much as the Speaker advised that the affected bills could be reinstated. This translates that the bills would go through the law-making process one more time. That is; leave being granted to the person introducing the bill, the bill being read for the first time in Parliament, the bill being sent to the committee that is responsible, the second reading, the third reading and later on sent to the President for assent whereby there are chances of that the bill could be sent back to Parliament. This sounds like a step backwards, indicating that all the efforts of the stakeholders that introduced these bills has all gone to waste. Much as the Speaker wants a clean slate, he should not forget the milestone that has so far been travelled, but importantly not forgetting the objectives some of these laws seek to address for the benefit of the public.
Disregarding the bills that had commenced the legislative process in the 10th Parliament was an unfair decision. It was unfair to the Government that had introduced some of the affected bills, the Members of Parliament that had introduced private members bills, organisations, stakeholders that put in their effort to have the bills reach the stages they were prior to the Speakers decision, but most importantly the public that was going to benefit from the enactment of some of these bills. The decision will advance disadvantages at a future time such as time and money among other problems.
The Speaker should fast track the reinstatement of these bills as they are. Remembering that, priority should not be given to certain bills at the expense of the others. This is because all these bills irrespective of their significance are important for the promotion of rule of law, good governance and democracy, but significantly beneficial for the advancement of the country.