NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 9 – Since the passage of the Kenya Communications Amendment Bill 2008, a good number of Members of Parliament (MPs) have openly criticised it.
This was a swift response to protests from the media fraternity and the civil society who raised concerns with some provisions of the Bill and blamed Parliament for passing such a law.
The ‘good leaders’ who purported to champion press freedom and democracy spoke at rallies, church services and wherever they found crowds. One would get the impression that it was the responsibility of the masses to amend the law.
The fact that only 25 MPs were in the House when the Bill was passed raises some issues regarding the legislators’ sincerity on the matter or the general attitude towards law making.
Flashback to the heated debates on the Finance Bill where MPs were very active in the discussion to ensure the clause that was compelling them to pay taxes was withdrawn.
The day that the Bill was passed, the Acting Finance Minister had called an informal session (Kamukunji) and within minutes MPs were trickling into the old chambers to advise the Minister what he needed to do if he wanted the Bill to sail through Parliament.
Now back to the Communications Amendment Bill. In their defense, Orange Democratic Movement MPs say they had asked the Minister to withdraw discussion of the Bill the day it was passed.
The Party of National Unity coalition has also said the law is oppressive and called for its amendment.
This means none of the parties represented in Parliament supported the Bill. So, who passed it? Was it the work of Information Minister Samuel Poghisio, aided by the four walls of the Parliamentary chamber?
As parties went out trying to outshine each other and gaining political mileage for siding with the press, Wanjiku the poor voter, is not sure who makes laws in this country.
Apparently, MPs have said they do not have to be in Parliament all the time which is why only 25 of them were sufficient to pass the Bill.
Those who were not for the Bill had an option of stopping its passage if they so wished. As Limuru MP Peter Mwathi said, they could have whipped their colleagues to come and support them.
The Communications Bill just happened to ignite a lot of interest. That is why the media and its supporters have successfully lobbied to have the President call for amendments to the draconian clauses.
Wanjiku the voter would wonder how many other Bills are passed with serious mishaps and become law?
It’s a pity that MPs are not even apologetic for not being in Parliament to debate serious issues and make laws.
We understand they don’t have to be in Parliament at all times, but whose responsibility is it to make laws in this country?
Members of the public told Capital News that MPs should take up responsibility and own up to their mistakes.
“It’s a shame that MPs go out talking about hitches in laws. Where were they when this Bill was passed?” one reader posed. “When they are debating their salaries they are all very active and the House is normally full; other things that do not touch them, they are less concerned,” they said.
Jane Wavinya, another reader said; “Returning the Bill to be amended is consuming a lot of time that could be used to do other things. the Bill had already been discussed, passed and already assented into law, the whole process has to be repeated because MPs were not there to do what they are supposed to do.”