Kampala. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has said Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa “cannot direct Parliament” in a simmering row over the failure by the House to convene a special sitting for the fallen former Attorney General Peter Nyombi.
Nyombi’s body was on Wednesday brought to Parliament for MPs and other government officials to pay their last respects but no special sitting was convened, as is the tradition when former legislators or senior government officials pass away.
The failure to hold a special sitting also unnerved Nyombi’s family, with the widow Juliana Nyombi telling mourners at the burial in Nakasongola District yesterday that she “did not understand what happened at Parliament”.
Asked why no such special sitting was organised, Ms Nankabirwa on Wednesday said both Speaker Kadaga and her deputy, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, were on official business, leaving the House with no presiding officer.
Ms Nankabirwa’s remarks have since angered the Speaker who last evening issued a statement, telling the Chief Whip not to attempt to direct Parliament business, explaining that the only persons entitled to lie in state and have a tribute are sitting MPs, national leaders, the President and other leaders proposed by the government.
“It is unfair for Nankabirwa to attempt to direct Parliament to convene in recess without an overwhelming reason. 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,” Ms Kadaga is quoted by a Parliament statement.
Ms Kadaga said when she received a letter requesting for Nyombi to be given a special sitting, she recommended that Parliament would pay tribute to the ex-Attorney General at the beginning of the second meeting in November.
“I thought this was adequate. Government, however, insisted that the body should be brought to Parliament for the public to pay their respects,” she said.
Ms Kadaga referenced a letter she wrote to then prime minister Amama Mbabazi in January 2014, asking him to clear the air over which deceased government official is entitled to special sitting to avoid potential “embarrassment.”
“It is important to note that the way prominent deceased persons are handled have obvious political and social connotations, which, if not carefully handled, can lead to senses of discontent, marginalisation, disharmony and mutual suspicion in certain parts of the country,” reads a letter the Speaker wrote on February 17, 2014. The letter, which was copied to the Principal Private Secretary to the President, was never responded to.