QUORUM HITCH

MPs boycott sittings in protest of Uhuru attempt to usurp role

'Members want space to undertake their legislation mandate'

In Summary
  • 'We cannot allow the President to make laws for the people. Power was separated and Parliament must be given space to operate'
The National Assembly
REBELLION; The National Assembly
Image: FILE

 

MPs on Wednesday boycotted sittings in a silent protest against what they said was President Uhuru Kenyatta's attempt to usurp the House's legislative mandate.

The morning sitting failed to raise the minimum quorum of 50, required to conduct business. The sitting was adjourned to the afternoon.

MPs are angry with Uhuru's attempt to control the legislature, members said. they cited the President's memoranda on the Finance Bill, 2019.

During the afternoon sittings, a number of the lawmakers just signed the electronic attendance register before leaving the chambers.

The lawmakers stayed away over what they termed as 'incessant memorandums' from the Executive.

It was the second time MPs staged the quorum hitch, the first being after their defeat in the bid to overturn Uhuru's reservations with the law on interest rate caps.

Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali said members were expressing their frustration with "an attempt by the President to legislate on their behalf."

"Members seem fed up with these memoranda. They want space to undertake their legislation mandate," the Mumias East MP said.

The sittings started on a slow note with only two members contributing to the motion on registration of farmers.

Only 20 members were present at the sitting presided over by Chris Omulele (Luanda) even as members proclaimed they would not frustrate the business schedule for the afternoon sittings.

Afternoon attempts to perpetuate the quorum hitch forced Speaker Justin Muturi to call out the lawmakers, saying they were being dishonest.

This followed revelations that 270 members attended the sitting where the vote on the reservations was to be taken. The number would have enabled them to overturn the President’s memo.

At least 233 members are required to overturn a president’s reservation. but when the vote on the bill was called, only 161 members were present.

On Wednesday, members' private motions and bills were not deliberated upon over the numbers hitch even as lawmakers held that the protest would persist.

Those who spoke to the Star said they would not allow the Executive to usurp the National Assembly's law-making role.

“We cannot allow the President to make laws for the people. Power was separated and Parliament must be given space to operate,” a member said in confidence, citing fears of reprisals.

Some said MPs pass laws, considering the input of Kenyans whom they represent, and that such contribution cannot be vetoed by the Executive.

The Finance Bill, 2019; Merchant Shipping Act; amendments to effect taxes on fuel are some of the legislations sparking the fears of Uhuru taking control of the House.

But Muturi said it was dishonest for the protesting members to allude that they were not given sufficient time to lobby themselves to vote on the reservations.

“It is utter dishonesty. Some of those who appeared on TV were not even in the chamber. If you think you can make your laws on TV, then you have misplaced priorities,” Muturi said.

“I will not fault any member for being absent in the House to exercise their right. We gave room for division bell to be rung. It is untrue that members lacked sufficient time to lobby themselves.” 

Uhuru on October 17, informed the House that he would not sign the Finance Bill, 2019, in which the MPs had retained the law capping interest rates.

“The House and the general public had at least six days after the notice of the motion to adopt the report when the bill was given. The clerk published the order paper on Friday, being four days prior to the material day. The media equally highlighted the upcoming vote. It is inaccurate for any member of the House to claim there was no notice,” the Speaker said.

Jude Njomo, who has been pushing for capping of the interest rates, said they would give the banks six months to prove they can be trusted with costing of loans.

“We have the amendment which was ordered by the court. If the banks misbehave, we will return the bill to the House and pass it,” the Kiambu MP said.

 

edited by peter obuya