NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 1 – The much anticipated debate on the report by the Senate ad-hoc committee investigating the May 9 Solai Dam tragedy failed to kick off Wednesday after Baringo Senator Gideon Moi requested the Senate Speaker to suspend debate citing the sub-judice rule.
Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki shelved debate until Thursday afternoon when he shall give a comprehensive ruling whether Senators debating the report might prejudice the ongoing prosecution of Solai Dam owner Perry Mansukh and eight other suspects who are charged with the deaths of 48 people.
“In the circumstances, I rule as follows, that this matter be deferred until tomorrow at 2:30pm. That this motion be given high priority tomorrow at 2:30pm; in which case the Speaker will make a detailed ruling on the matter raised by Senator Gideon Moi. Depending on that ruling, debate may ensue because I need a bit of time to reflect and balance all the authorities and look at the history. We are also guided by precedence and previous decisions of Parliament but we can also break new ground which we shall have to support with authority so that our decision can stand the test of time,” he directed.
Senator Moi halted debate after he stood on a point of order citing Standing Order 91, which gives guidelines if the House can concurrently handle a matter that is active before the courts.
This prompted Committee Chairman Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) to ask him to declare if he has any conflict of interest in the matter.
“For this particular point, Senator Gideon is being misadvised legally and I wanted to say when I used to advice him he would not have raised this point. in a matter like this, Senator Gideon Moi should have disclosed his interest… is he a business partner of Mr Patel or is he a business partner to any of the accused?” posed Kilonzo Jnr.
“I do not have any interest whatsoever!” responded the Baringo Senator.
Senators Moses Wetangula (Bungoma), Ladema ole Kina (Narok), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) urged the Speaker to dismiss Senator Moi’s objection and allow debate to proceed while Nominated Senator Halake Abshiro come to his defence.
The Senators faulted their Baringo counterpart for trying to stop the House from debating a report which it had sanctioned. They said that the House was seized of the matter long before the suspects were charged.
“If anybody asks for a clarification it is not because of ill motive or lack of support of the public. We all know Gideon was there a few weeks ago and he has been supporting this process. So again I am asking where is the goodwill for colleagues because as a newcomer I find it very intimidating to be judged so harshly as I have seen this afternoon,” Senator Abshiro remarked.
The Senate Select Committee recommended to the Director of Public Prosecutions to institute additional charges against Solai dam owner Perry Mansukhlal Kansagra to include charges relating to acts and omissions contrary to laws regulating water works.
Kansagra, who is the managing director of Patel Coffee Estates, was charged over the collapse of the dam and is facing three counts including manslaughter.
The Senate ad-hoc committee, which investigated the circumstances under which the dam collapsed in May has in its report faulted Kansagra for failure to apply for a permit for the dam built on Watkins stream.
The committee also recommended the suspension of all National Government officials stationed at Solai, for the enforcement of the restoration order of the dam to succeed.
The committee further wants the restoration order issued by NEMA on July 19 this year revoked and a new one provided with specific directions on the legal restoration and compensation and procurement of an independent environmental expert to establish the extent of damage caused.