Forget Grand Opposition, Ministers tell MPs

May 13, 2008 12:00 am

NAIROBI, May 13 – There was more dissent on Tuesday over the formation of a Grand Coalition Opposition in Parliament, after two Cabinet Ministers described it as unnecessary and unlawful.

The Justice, Constitutional Affairs and National Cohesion Minister Martha Karua Tuesday differed with those calls, and said such an opposition would threaten the future of the Grand Coalition Government as it were.

The merged Government was formed to end a two-month long period of violence fuelled by a disputed December presidential poll.

Karua said Members of Parliament (MPs) who severed links with the government to form the opposition would be deemed to have defected to another party.

“Such legislators would have to seek re-election,” she asserted.

The debate over the formation of a grand opposition by backbenchers in the ruling coalition has raged on since the formation of the bloated Cabinet in mid-April.

The backbenchers argue that an opposition was necessary to keep check on the coalition government.

Among the about 60 MPs who proposed its formation are Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) legislators Ababu Namwamba, Isaac Ruto and Dr Julius Kones.

Others are New Ford Kenya MP Dr Bonny Khalwale, who is also the Public Accounts Committee chairman, and Naivasha MP John Mututho.

Karua meanwhile supported sentiments made in the past few days by Prime Minister Raila Odinga that the coalition government would deliver a new constitution by April next year.

She was addressing Secondary School heads from Central Province at the Kenya Methodist University in Meru.

In Nairobi meanwhile, a number of Ministers offered their suggestions on the matter.

Mutula Kilonzo, who oversees the Nairobi Metropolitan Development docket, offered that forming a Grand Coalition Opposition in Parliament would be contrary to the National Accord and Reconciliation Act.

Mutula stated:” You cannot bring a new law to create a creature that is in complete contradiction of not only the Constitution but an existing legislation.”

“They are at liberty to aspire to be the grand opposition but that will happen at the dissolution of the 10th Parliament. At this time, sorry, a grand opposition is not on the cards,” he affirmed.

Speaking during the inauguration of the new ODM-Kenya party offices, Mutula urged his parliamentary colleagues to work together with the government and focus their energies on passing a new constitution.

He added that there were ongoing efforts to dialogue with MPs who have been accused of working on a personal agenda after they were left out of the coalition cabinet.

“Please my brothers and sisters in Parliament we cannot have a cabinet of 220 MPs, this is not the way to go. Come talk to us and let us find a method of addressing your grievances such as they are; regarding the naming of the grand coalition cabinet.”

Odinga said over the weekend that since the major political parties had come together to form a coalition Government, MPs should keep the State on its toes while in the back benches.

Lands Minister James Orengo on Tuesday was of a similar mindset when he uttered: “There is no need for an official grand opposition party as the role of watchdog can still be played within the government by backbenchers.”

Citing the pre multi-party era, Orengo said the opposition was still active even then.

“If you read the Hansard of the 2nd and 3rd Parliament we were very active, despite the fact that we were not playing our role in the context of an opposition party,” he added.

“This is not however to say that I oppose an opposition, as you people of the media may want to put it tomorrow (Wednesday),” the Minister said, joking that he would sue whoever did print any misconception.

Parliamentary Standing orders state that for a political party to form an official Opposition in Parliament, it must have at least 30 MPs.

Since major political parties are in the grand coalition Government, the others that did not join do not qualify to form an official Opposition.

The law also does not allow a group of MPs from different political parties to form an official Opposition.

But a motion authorising a Bill that would formalise the official Opposition has already been passed.

The motion, backed by 80 MPs, was brought to the House by Namwamba.

Separately, Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende also distanced himself from the debate on Grand Coalition Opposition saying it will be up to the MPs to make a decision on the matter.

He said MPs have the mandate to make the necessary legislation that would allow opposition of a particular form.

Marende said his office is ready to handle the debate urging MPs to also do their work of passing laws.

He however said for the Grand Coalition Government to succeed all agreements should be incorporated in the Mediation Accord.

He said the inclusion will also resolve the controversy over the grand coalition opposition.


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