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CORD seeks special Senate sitting over anti-terror law

Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula urged Speaker of the Senate Ekwee Ethuro to consider their request for a special sitting

Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula urged Speaker of the Senate Ekwee Ethuro to consider their request for a special sitting

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 16 – CORD Senators have demanded that Speaker of the Senate calls for a special sitting to allow them to debate the contentious issues in the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014, which has elicited a myriad of reactions.

Speaking during a briefing on the Bill to the public by the CORD leadership, Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula urged Speaker of the Senate Ekwee Ethuro to consider their request for a special sitting to since the matter was within its jurisdiction.

“We in the Senate have now acquired the required threshold by way of signatures; we have submitted to the Speaker of the Senate this morning and we have demanded a recall of the Senate by Thursday this week, to join progressive forces in resisting this dangerous piece of legislation,” stated Wetangula.

Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar who also addressed the gathering reiterated Wetangula’s sentiments saying it was mandatory for the Bill to move to the Upper House otherwise it would be rendered unconstitutional.

Omar was also alarmed by the proposal that the number of refugees be set at a certain limit posing the scenario that refugees do not choose when to seek refuge in a neighbouring country and that Kenya would be contravening some of the international statues it has signed.

Siaya Senator James Orengo joined in the debate, intimating that they intended to move to court to challenge the constitutionality of 36 Bills passed by the National Assembly.

At the same time, Opposition leader Raila Odinga has outlined 10 reasons why Parliament should not pass the anti-terror bill, saying it is dangerous for the country.

READ: Media faults sections of new anti terror law

Speaking at a briefing on the Bill, Odinga listed the contentious clauses purported to infringe on the rights of Kenyans while calling on Members of Parliament to reject the Bill in its entirety.

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“The Act does not define what is obscene, gory or offensive and this will now depend on the police. The Constitution has already stated what information is forbidden and the amendment is trying to add more restrictions and with very severe penalties for the members of the fourth estate,” stated Odinga.

One of Odinga’s concern was that the Bill gave powers to impose a curfew to an unqualified person as opposed to the Inspector General of Police.

“The decision to impose curfew will now not be made based on a professional security risk assessment but on the political grounds since the Inspector General has roles placed on him by the Constitution but the Cabinet Secretary has none,” added Odinga.

He went on to accuse the government of dictatorship saying the proposal that the Cabinet Secretary determines where a rights group will picket or hold its demonstration was meant to neutralise trade unions and prevent them from raising their issues of concern.

On Clause 42A of the Bill requiring that an accused person discloses his/her witnesses evidence to the prosecution, the CORD leader stated that it was an accused person’s right to withhold certain information further reminding President Uhuru Kenyatta of his ordeal at the International Criminal Court (ICC) where he protested when the court sought for information from the government.

On his part, ODM Secretary General Ababu Namwamba lashed out at Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi for allowing the Bill to be tabled saying it still needed more work.

He also reiterated the party’s commitment to ensure Kenyans were safe saying the protests they were making should not be misconstrued for the lack of commitment to guaranteeing a safe Kenya.

“We are fully committed to any effort meant to secure the lives and property of the people of this country. What we shall resist with every ounce of our energy, is an attempt to roll back the gains that Kenyans have sweated for, died for, bled for and given their all in pursuit of,” explained Namwamba.

Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama was not left behind, as he asked CORD supporters to encourage their representatives in the Houses of Parliament to disallow the passing of the bill outlining its dangers.

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State House has since responded to the Opposition leaders, saying CORD should stand with the people in the fight against terrorism as opposed to fighting the laws being propagated to deal with the menace.

The National Assembly will have a special sitting this Thursday to debate the anti-terror law.

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