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Choosing MPs to Debate Not Practical, says Opposition Chief Whip

Opposition chief whip Winnie Kiiza has said that a proposal to have party whips choose legislators to contribute on the floor is ideal but not practical in Uganda.

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Opposition chief whip Winnie Kiiza has said that a proposal to have party whips choose legislators to contribute on the floor is ideal but not practical in Uganda.

Responding to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s announcement that whips will begin selecting who contributes on what issue in the house, Kiiza admitted that it is the best system in democracy especially in multiparty parliaments but cautioned that in Uganda it will be hard.

Kadaga said on Friday after the house suspended rules of procedure to pass the budget because of lack of time that the problem was because each MP wants to comment on every issue which consumes a lot of time.

 

The Ninth Parliament has 386 members including 11 Ex-officials.

Kadaga said things will change and whips will ensure that not everyone comments on every issue by selecting the members to contribute.

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But Kiiza, the Kasese Woman MP, argues that Uganda’s democracy is still young and can’t absorb such a system without creating conflicts and muzzling some voices. She says Uganda’s debate is still about individuals unlike in other parliaments like the UK where it is about political parties.

Political analyst and researcher Fredrick Golooba Mutebi agrees with Kiiza. Golooba says it will be like parties choosing other spokespersons. He says Uganda has a constituency system and therefore people represent and speak on behalf of their constituents not parties.

Golooba also says it will be unfair to stop the MPs from commenting on issues that might be of direct interest to people they represent.

Like Kiiza, Golooba says that the Speaker can use her prerogative and choose who she thinks will contribute important points to an issue being debated. He also said the Speaker can also determine when to stop debate about an issue so as to save time.

Kiiza thinks the new proposal is aimed at muzzling some dissenting voices. She questions why it is coming at this particular time when MPs especially from the ruling party are disagreeing with their party position.

Government chief whip Justine Kasule has however dismissed these arguments as just petty. She says the Speaker is right someone has to make sure time is observed.

She says the issue of dissenting voices will arise but a harmonizing position will always be reached because government cannot punish the whole constituency because they disagreed with their representative.

Kiiza further said that with the African Leadership Institute (AFLI) scorecard which rates MPs’ performances depending on their contributions on the floor, the members will feel cheated if they are not given enough time to speak.

But Kasule told Uganda Radio Network that the Parliamentary Commission is talking with the AFLI scorecard team to look at the MPs’ contributions in committees and the field not just in plenary.

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