Judge says MPs 7-year term of office unconstitutional

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Justice Barishak [Photo credit: Michael O'Hagan

One of the justices in the age limit case, Justice Cheborion Barishaki extending of the term of office of Members of Parliament was unconstitutional.

“One can say that extension of MPs’ and Local Government’s tenure from 5 to 7 years is a robbery of the people who go to vote knowing the MPs’ tenure is 5 years,” he said in a Thursday ruling at Mbale constitutional court.

He added: “These provisions were passed in disregard of various provisions of the constitution and parliament rules of procedure.”

Here is his full ruling:

There was foul play in the way the Bill was passed.

Barishaki says the use of security armed forces during the age limit violated several sections of the constitution.

Article137 gives court jurisdiction to hear this petition. No one provision of the constitution should be segregated from others in interpretation of the constitution it should be read as a whole.

By extending their term of office, parliament arrogated itself the power vested in people hence violated the constitution (Art 1).

Legislative history is a very useful guide to constitutional amendment process, the history thus is worth revisiting.

The constitutional amendment of extending term of office for parliament and local councils amounts to holding office without the will of the people. The emphasis of the sovereignty of the people is intended to stop parliament from usurping the power of the people in my view.

Article 1 does not envisage extension of term of office for local councils, hence violation.

The people went to vote knowing the term of office is 5 years, extending without consulting them is breach of social contract, you robbed the people. Major argument based on petitioners submissions is that parliament assumed people’s power and did not follow procedure to make specific amendments.

No evidence was advanced to show that extension of parliament terms was done for the good of Ugandans or in good faith, parliament in this case denied people right to office.

If extension of term of office for parliamentarians was done in good faith, then it should have been done starting with the next parliament.

On violence in parliament Justice Barishaki expunges sections of General Muhoozi’s evidence “since he was not present and relied only on feedback.’ Barishaki says that the right of parliamentarians to participate in proceedings is not absolute if they express indiscipline and are legally kicked out.

Barishaki agrees with respondents that the speaker did not fault in suspending MPs.

Barishaki says the majority in parliament was unwilling to listen to the voice of the minority. “They should have exercised patience and caution.”

There was evidence that a member of parliament had entered the chambers with a gun.

The involvement of the army was justified.

According to Justice Barishaki, the events in parliament were life threatening, and it was justifiable to call the army for backup. But this should not be abused in future without prior evaluation.

The Police which is mandated top protect law and order unduly interfered with consultation meetings across the country hence violated Article 29 of the constitution.

The police directive of the Assistant Inspector General of Police to stop MPs’ movements was “obnoxious”, “ignorant” and “recklessly passed”. Everyone has a right to move freely in Uganda.

Barishaki faults MPs for not heeding the Speaker’s call to order. Says the Speaker acted within her powers and therefore cannot be faulted for the forceful removal of MPs from the Chambers.

Barishaki says MPs should have acted with decorum in the first place & upheld the dignity of the House. Rowdy MPs acted contemptously & caused their removal from the House & therefore there was no violation of their right to participate in the process.

Barishaki adds a caveat that whereas their conduct warranted the army’s intervention, their handling and arrest was uncalled for and faults the intervening forces for using excessive force Barishaki faults Police for issuing a directive barring MPs from conducting joint consultations, saying it is unconstitutional and unjustifiable in a multiparty political dispensation.

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