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MPs ignore dissent on Grand Opposition

NAIROBI, May 12 – The clamour for a Grand Coalition Opposition in Parliament continued on Monday despite strong criticism and discouragement from the Prime Minister Raila Odinga over the past few days.

Back benchers have defended the merged opposition, and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Bonny Khalwale led a section of the legislators on Monday to insist that they would continue pushing for the Bill that would create the official watchdog in the House.

Khalwale downplayed accusations that the group was disgruntled after being left out of the Cabinet list.

“Whether we are doing it individually or collectively, it is important we do it structurally and in accordance with the law,” Khalwale said. “When we passed the National Accord, we literally changed the law so we cannot continue doing things the same way we were doing before.”

The MPs urged the House Business committee (HBC) to expedite the preparation of the Bill and further invited President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to join debate on it when it is brought before the House.

Speaking at his home coming party in Kisumu on Sunday, the Prime Minister openly told Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) supporters and Members of Parliament (MPs) to forget being in the opposition and instead work for the party.

The PM reiterated that the party was in the government to stay and added that the move was likely to undermine the operation of his office.

Earlier on Friday, during an induction seminar for the Grand Coalition Government, Odinga once again dismissed the proponents of the Grand Opposition as people out to blackmail the Government.

He noted that the MPs could still put checks and balances on the government without being in the opposition.

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About 80 MPs, who missed out on Cabinet appointments, have ganged up to seek the Speaker’s recognition as the official opposition in the House.

The MPs, from the Party of National Unity and ODM, insisted that without the opposition the government of the day was likely to gang up against its people.

Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba’s Motion to petition the Speaker to allow the MPs to present a Bill on the Grand Opposition was passed last Thursday.

The motion is expected to be brought to the House for debate this week. Proponents of the motion have insisted that the Bill would sail through since it enjoys support from leaders across the political divide.

Deputy speaker Farah Maalim had earlier dismissed the motion noting that those pushing for it were not qualified to be in the opposition since their sponsor parties are in the coalition government.

It is only Cyrus Jirongo’s KADDU that is not incorporated in the government. However with only one MP, the party falls short of the 30 legislators required to form the Official Opposition.

The MPs have all along argued that the Grand Opposition would help check Government excesses.

Speaking on Monday, Naivasha Legislator John Mututho was adamant that their intentions were not ill motivated as has been interpreted by their critics.

Mututho insisted: “As a watchdog all we have within us is to bark. We are going to bark against any excesses by Ministers or any civil servant. Whether in official opposition or not, they will not have it easy from us!”

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