Parliament has dropped a proposal mooted by Eng. Kafeero Ssekitoleko seeking to lift age retirement limits for Uganda judges.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, ruled that the matter was not more urgent than others deferred during the House consideration of the Constitution (Amendment) Bills at the end of the 9th Parliament.
“I have listened to the arguments and I’ve not seen the urgency. If we allow this proposal, the danger will be that I will not have reason not to allow motions on other issues,” said Kadaga adding that “We demand that government brings a comprehensive proposal to amend the Constitution. I defer this proposal indefinitely.”
Nakifuma MP Hon. Ssekitoleko had sought leave (permission), through a motion as required by Parliament Rules of Procedure, to introduce the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2016 intended to amend the Constitution to increase the retirement age of judges from 70 to 75 years; and from 65 to 70 years for Justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
The proposed Bill also sought to increase the tenure of service of commissioners of the Electoral Commission to seven years and eligible for reappointment.
Earlier on MPs had spoken for or against the motion but not before the Shadow Attorney General, Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba (Ind., Ndorwa East) sounding out the government position on the matter.
“This matter touches a very important document in our jurisdiction, the Constitution. We would want to know the position of the Minister of Justice on the proposed Constitutional Review Commission; how government will comply with recommendations of the Supreme Court (following the electoral petition) and whether any MP can move a Private Members Bill on any area in the Constitution,” said Hon. Niwagaba.
Parliament Commissioner, Hon. Peter Ogwang (NRM, Usuk) said the Uganda Law Reform Commission and all Opposition parties appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2015 had supported the increment in retirement age of judges.
He however wondered whether, if granted leave, the Bill would garner enough support at later stages of its consideration and proposed that government takes it over.
Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire said he could not give a position before consulting with Cabinet.
“As a government we shall submit to the Parliament Rules; what Parliament decides is what we shall take to Cabinet,” he said adding that, “we are still committed to our earlier position (of instituting a Constitutional Review Commission).”
In defeat, Ssekitoleko prayed that his proposals are included in a comprehensive government Bill intended to amend the Constitution and that government provides a time frame within which the Bill would be tabled in the House.
The proposed Bill also sought to clarify the roles of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker; to provide for the improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of the legislature; and increase the period for the adjudication of presidential election petitions from 30 to 45 days from when the petition is filed.