, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 15 – Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi has postponed the final vote on the Powers and Privileges Bill which curtails reporting on Parliament and directed the House Business Committee to schedule another day when it will be voted on, in a last ditch effort to seek review.
He also explained that the Bill must be debated by the Senate since it had a net effect on both Houses.
Muturi, who had supported deletion of clause 27 which requires permission of the Speaker before electronic transmission of plenary or committee proceedings and clause 34 which creates the offence of defamation against Parliament, said the House needed to reconsider the offensive provisions to ensure they did not raise constitutional hurdles.
“In response to the points raised by the members, I would defer putting of the question in the Third Reading and refer this matter to the House Business Committee to make a decision after reflecting on all the issues as to when the question in Third Reading will be put,” said Muturi.
Leader of Majority Aden Duale who proposed the deferral said there was no consideration in passing the amendments and urged his colleagues to reject the Bill to allow for a more elaborate one to be developed.
“This request is informed by the need to allow for further reflection on the contents of the Bill and the provision carried therein. It is indisputable that several provisions contained in the Bill are offensive to the general rights and freedoms as espoused in the Constitution,” said Duale.
He added that provisions in the Bill breached the Constitution with regard to freedom of expression, media and access to information.
Pointing out that the Bill was faulty, Duale said it failed to provide a clause that would prevent courts from interfering with matters before Parliament, this coming in the wake of an injunction by the High Court barring the National Assembly from discussing the impeachment of Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru.
By this, he said, the Bill failed to take into consideration parliamentary privilege and the separation of powers between the Arms of Government.
He also took issue with a proposal in the Bill essentially reducing Sergeant at Arms to civilians saying if Parliament or a meeting place involving MPs was intruded, parliamentary officers would not have the mandate to restrain the ‘intrusion’ and police officers would have to be called in.
“This Bill if it is passed will retrogressively in more ways than one is a great disservice to this nation,” he pointed out.
He said the committee had also failed to adequately consult all stakeholders and specifically the end-users, asserting that due consideration was not heeded.
He was supported by several members among them Deputy Leader of Minority Jakoyo Midiwo who pleaded with the Speaker to live by his promise to the media that no draconian law bent on gagging them would be passed, warning that the repercussions would be adverse.
“It must not always be acrimony… right now we have many issues, the interest rates are at 25 percent, there are so many things that we can do for our nation that should occupy the media space,” he said.
He further warned Parliament against developing laws that would shield them from probe pointing out that already there was Chapter Six of the constitution which ‘watched’ their activities.
Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkong’a termed the passage of the Bill as a low moment for the House, stating that the media should be allowed to cover both positive and negative things.
“There is no other mouth we can use other than the media; even when we misbehave, that is part of the report,” Chepkong’a opined.
He said that the Senate would take advantage of the situation to upstage them by rejecting it, hence making them look bad.
“I am sure you know what will happen in that other House; must we be embarrassed when we have serious people? We don’t need to go to court to be told this Bill is unconstitutional,” he said.
Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau who chairs the Energy Committee warned that passage of the Bill would initiate a court battle between the Lower House and the media, and would eventually ‘sour’ their relationship.
Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo on her part called on the Speaker to regularly initiate informal meetings to engage the members on contentious issue before they are made public.