, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 14 – Parliament’s business was halted on Wednesday morning after MPs and Cabinet Ministers failed to turn up to ask and respond to questions.
The House sat for just an hour contrary to the usual three and a half hours after running out of business to transact. Out of the 10 questions listed for the morning session, only one was answered as seven MPs and two Ministers were absent.
"It is indeed a very sad day," said Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim.
The crucial Counter Trafficking of Persons Bill was rescheduled to Thursday after its sponsor Millie Odhiambo missed the sitting.
"Those members and the Ministers will not transact business in this House until they offer a satisfactory explanation to the Chair for their absence," Mr Maalim ruled.
The MPs have in the last two weeks rejected an adjournment Motion that would have given them a one-month break for the referendum campaigns and the August 4 vote. Despite being listed for debate, parliamentarians have rejected the Motion in what reports indicate is a standoff following the rejection of a proposed pay rise.
Water Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri alleged that the referendum campaigns were taking a tall on the House Business.
"Mr Speaker, the Members absent are in the No camp. Could it be that they are saying No to their constituents by failing to ask questions on their behalf?" wondered.
Four of the absent MPs who were scheduled to raise questions in the House are from the Rift Valley and are on an aggressive No campaign against the proposed Constitution. They include Sammy Mwaita, Zakayo Cheruiyot, Peris Simam and Luka Kigen. Other absent legislators included Abdul Bahari, Olagao Oluoch, Shakeel Shabbir and Eugene Wamalwa.
Last Thursday the adjournment Motion was defeated after it lacked a seconder. The previous week, the same Motion was withdrawn at the eleventh hour after it became apparent that members were planning to defeat it.
A fortnight ago the MPs passed a report proposing to raise their perks from Sh851,000 to Sh1.2 million attracting public outcry. The same report doubled their sitting allowance to Sh10,000.
Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has however rejected the new perks and failed to submit three Bills that would legalise the new pay.