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MPs jostle over sitting arrangements

NAIROBI, April 15 – Debate over the sitting arrangements for newly appointed Ministers dominated Parliament’s first session Tuesday after a three-week break.

Igembe South Member of Parliament (MP) Linturi Mithika kicked off the debate when he rose on a point of order asking the House Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim to tell some Ministers who had occupied benches on the left to sit on Maalim’s right as per the Standing Orders.

Normally Government Ministers and legislators allied to the State sit on the Speaker’s right hand side while the official opposition takes up the benches on the left side.

Mithika said: “These ministers are taking up the space of the back benchers and should move to the government side.”

His sentiments were supported by Isiolo South legislator Abdul Bahari, who added that the sitting positions are mandatory and require urgent consideration from the Speaker.

During the in-camera session Prime Minister Raila Odinga was among those who had sat on the left side of the Chair together with pentagon member Joseph Nyagah, Higher Learning Minister Sally Kosgei and her Lands counterpart James Orengo.

Other pentagon members William Ruto, Najib Balala and Charity Ngilu, who engaged Justice Minister Martha Karua in conversation, took up their rightful place on the first row of the right side.

While saying that the newly appointed ministers could sit anywhere they chose because they had not yet been sworn in, the Deputy Speaker said a ruling on the sitting arrangements would be made on Thursday afternoon.

But even after his ruling some MPs called for the suspension of parliamentary sessions until the Cabinet is sworn in and the sitting positions determined.

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The call for the suspension of Parliament was also raised because several members failed to get answers to their questions from the various Ministers, who must be sworn in before they can respond to queries.

A ruling on the formation of an Opposition would also be made on the same day following calls by several MPs who were left out of the Cabinet, asking to be considered as the Official Opposition.

The MPs said the House could not be left without an opposition that would keep the government in check.

Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo in his petition said: “Please rule on whether the back benchers can be allowed to form a grand coalition opposition to check the coalition government.”

He read out part of his petition that called for the Grand Opposition: “Not being Ministers and not being less than 30 members, by signing a decision in writing we can be recognised as the official opposition and that such group of members shall be called the Grand Coalition of Opposition.”

Meanwhile MPs began discussion on the Accounts Bill 2008 after passing a motion that the publication period of the Bill be reduced from the usual 14 days to seven.

The Bill was introduced by Finance Minister Amos Kimunya and seconded by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi.

If passed the Bill aims to streamline the accounting profession in the country.

The House also paid tribute to the late Parliamentary Clerk Samuel Ndindiri and politician Jeremiah Nyagah.

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“Both these men served this country with a lot of dedication and will be fondly remembered,” Deputy Speaker Maalim said.


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