Speaker says Parliament superior to courts

November 27, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, November 27 – National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende on Thursday ruled that the courts cannot bar Parliament from debating issues that affect the public.

In a ruling arising from a High Court decision barring disbandment of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), Mr Marende said neither the judiciary nor any other person or authority had the mandate to interfere with constitutional powers bestowed to Parliament.

“No civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted against any member for words spoken before, or written in a report to the Assembly or a committee, or by reason of any matter or thing brought by him therein by Petition, Bill, resolution, Motion or otherwise,” he ruled.

He said Parliament was empowered by the Constitution to carry out its legislative agenda and no court ruling should stop it from performing that role.

His statement was in response to concerns raised by Kisumu Town West Member of Parliament Olago Aluoch who had sought interpretation after High Court judge Joseph Nyamu temporarily blocked Parliament from introducing a Bill in the House to disband the ECK due to a case filed by the 22 Commissioners led by chairman Samuel Kivuitu.

Following the court ruling, MPs complained that the Parliament’s powers had been undermined and called for the abolition of the constitutional division of the High Court which had issued the controversial order.

Mr Marende assured the House that he would remain committed to guarding Parliament’s rights and ensure that it performs its roles without interferences.

“The Speaker is under duty to protect the constitutional authority and the role of Parliament.  I will diligently perform this role and jealously guard the constitutional authority of Parliament,” he said.

MPs Abroad trips

The Speaker also used the opportunity to rush to the defence of MPs who have been accused of excessive and unnecessary overseas trips.

He said 70 percent of MPs in the 10th Parliament were first-time MPs who required extensive orientation, which allowed them to travel to different countries to learn as well as promote inter-country working relations.

Mr Marende also said Kenya’s National Assembly was affiliated to many parliamentary groups like the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and African Caribbean Pacific and European Union among others.

“Our Parliament is an active member of these bodies and therefore our participation in these international meetings is of paramount importance not only to the Assembly but also to the country,” he said.

He also said Parliament was in the process of introducing new committees and also discussing the amended Standing Orders which required wide consultations and sharing of ideas with other countries.

The Speaker ruled out any misuse of the budgets allocated for the trips saying only 32 per cent of the gross estimates had been used.

“This is relatively satisfactory as it covers the first five months, the Kenya National Assembly is implementing its budget through the Integrated Financial Management Information Systems which is based on quarter ceilings,” he said.

Mr Marende however warned MPs and Parliamentary Committees against travelling during Parliamentary proceedings unless the trips were very important.

He also told committees that they have to give their reports indicating their budget estimates before requests to travel were made.

The Speaker further reminded them to make programmes according to the budgetary provisions.

He was reacting to media reports that MPs were making unnecessary numerous trips abroad.


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