The state minister for Housing, Persis Namuganza on Wednesday walked out on the rules committee of parliament in protest.

Namuganza had appeared before the committee together with witnesses regarding the ongoing investigation into the minister’s alleged questioning of the integrity of parliament. 

In May, an ad-hoc committee investigating the giveaway of Nakawa-Naguru land, recommended that Namuganza steps aside for falsifying a presidential directive that led to the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) to allocate the land to a section of investors.

But Namuganza reportedly questioned the treatment of investors and people who appear before parliamentary committees, equating it to a torture chamber. A section of MPs led by Bukooli Central MP, Solomon Silwanyi accused Namuganza of ridiculing parliament and its leadership over the findings. Deputy speaker, Thomas Tayebwa then directed the committee to investigate the minister’s conduct. 

Appearing before the committee for the second time, Namuganza maintained her stand of not making any response to the allegations against her. She informed the committee that she had petitioned the speaker, Anita Among, and the deputy speaker in regard to unfair treatment by the committee.

She told the committee that any allegation against her should be backed by evidence in form of documents or recordings, which she would require prior to her formal response to the committee. Namuganza said that she was waiting for the speaker’s response to her petition before she makes any statement regarding the allegations against her.

“Mr chairman, you summoned me here by your powers under Article 90 of the constitution of the republic of Uganda. Mr chairman, the same article 90 gives you powers to order the production of documents by any witness. I, therefore, pray that the witnesses be ordered to produce and supply copies of supplementary evidence of whatever nature they intend to rely on and this is a requirement of fair hearing. If they don’t have any let them inform me…” she said. 

Charles Onen, the rules committee vice chairperson said that the witnesses were expected to present evidence through their testimonies and that the minister was free to cross-examine them. However, Namuganza insisted that evidence needed to be tabled first.

Bosco Okiror, the Usuk County MP said that no evidence had been provided to the committee but asked the minister to first listen to submissions by the witness and that if no evidence is availed, it would be to her advantage.

But Namuganza walked out of the committee and accused the MPs of declining any submission from her lawyer and failure to follow procedures. After the minister’s walkout, four MPs who are witnesses in the matter made submissions to the committee.

Silwanyi, failed to present any evidence in regard to allegations that Namuganza had put the institution of parliament in disrepute. Silwanyi said that the minister had questioned the integrity of parliament through statements made in a WhatsApp group of MPs of the 11th parliament.

However, Laura Kanusu, the national PWDs representative tasked Silwanyi with the particular rule of procedure that the minister had violated.

“Under what rule were you raising? Don’t talk about 190 because that talks about the power of the speaker. So in your view and in your understanding, what rule relates to the misconduct of a minister were you raising upon. But also in your understanding if a member goes to a forum which is a forum for a member of parliament where we discuss issues and those issues cannot be issues of parliament. They are part and parcel of the work we do as parliament. Are you telling this committee that we have no right as members of parliament to make any comments on the procedures of parliament whatsoever?” said Kanusu. 

Silwanyi sought more time to present the rules in breach to the committee. The committee then tasked Silwanyi to present evidence in regard to his allegations on Thursday.

Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman MP presented to the committee printouts of messages that the minister allegedly posted in the Whatsapp group. Opendi said that the actions and conduct of the minister were contrary to those expected of MPs.

Elijah Okupa, the Kasilo County MP said that Namuganza should have sought better platforms to address her concerns than going to social media. His sentiments were also shared by, Maurice Kibalya, the Bugabula South MP who said the behaviour of the minister was wanting.

Source: The Observer – Uganda

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