Quorum hitch forces MPs to put off key vote

February 23, 2012 1:14 pm
Quorum hitch forces MPs to put off key vote/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 23 – Parliament adjourned prematurely on Thursday morning after it failed to raise the mandatory 148 threshold to extend Sunday’s constitutional implementation deadline to pass key land reform Bills by 60 days.

Only 66 MPs were present in the debating chamber, as CIOC chairman Abdikadir Mohammed introduced the Motion for debate in the House.

The Executive received a lashing from back bench lawmakers who read mischief in the absence of ministers with only Lands Minister James Orengo and Attorney General Githu Muigai and a handful of assistant ministers being present in the House.

MPs Charles Kilonzo and Abdi Nuh insisted that the Executive must have whipped the 90-strong members to stay away.

“There’s no commitment on the part of the government to implement this Constitution,” said Kilonzo.

Education Assistant Minister Calist Mwatela termed the allegation as being a ‘fallacy’. “I am here in the House, and one has whipped me.”

The MPs noted that joint government whips were not in the House despite the fact that they had pledged to ensure the House got the two-thirds majority to extend the deadline.

“If the government is not in the House to debate these Bills, it puts into serious doubt the commitment that it has to Parliament regarding the implementation of these laws,” said Eldoret North MP William Ruto.

Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim had noted that an impending adjournment of the sittings before 12.30pm would be inappropriate for the House, given the huge workload and the tight deadline.

“Do MPs understand the import of what you’re asking the House to do? If we get to Monday next week, then we’ll have a constitutional crisis,” the Deputy Speaker had told the MPs. But they were adamant that the matter won’t get to Monday as they would raise the requisite numbers.

The constitution is explicit that if MPs fail to meet the legislative deadline, any citizen can petition the High Court to make a ruling on the matter. If a ruling is done, MPs will be given a fresh deadline to beat, which, if they fail, the House will stand dissolved.

“The predicament in which MPs find themselves in is purely a mistake of the government. The government published the Bills too close to the deadline. We’re not able to pass laws hurriedly and take responsibility for bad laws,” said vice chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Njoroge Baiya.

The debate on the Motion was expected to resume during Thursday afternoon’s sittings.

However in the event they fail to get the numbers or to pass the Motion, then MPs will be forced to hold special sittings on Friday and weekends to beat the Sunday deadline.


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