Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has asked Commonwealth Parliaments to pay attention to independent Members, who she said are laying increased claim for wider space in the multiparty arrangement.
In a meeting to set the agenda for the bi-annual Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding officers Conference scheduled for Canada in 2020, Kadaga said focus should be on better handling of the rights of independent MPs.
“I brought up the topic of the independents within the multiparty system because Parliament of Uganda is unique in that we have over 200 Members of the ruling party, we have the official opposition at 36 and we have 69 independents,” she said during the ongoing preparatory meeting in Malta on 10 January 2019.
She added: “That creates logistical problems in how to manage the House and I have told my colleagues that we discuss that topic in 2020 so that we can assist one another in case other Parliaments have the same challenges.”
The Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding officers Conference (CSPC) was created in 1969 with a fully-fledged secretariat in Canada and meets biannually.
The conference aims to encourage fairness and impartiality on the part of presiding officers of Parliament, promote knowledge and understanding of Parliamentary democracy and develop the institution of Parliament.
A recent ruling by Speaker Kadaga to have Parliamentary Commissioners elected saw the return of the debate on the independents, who now say they have to be represented at the institution’s highest decision making body, the Parliamentary Commission.
Currently, the four positions of back bench commissioners serving on the Commission is exclusive to the ruling National Resistance Movement MPs and the opposition Forum for Democratic Change.
At a recent interface with journalists, MP Andrew Baryayanga (Ind., Kabale Municipality) said he is finalizing a Private Members’ Bill which he said includes proposals for the election of Chief Opposition Whip and Leader of the Opposition but also slot independent MPs in the Commission. Parliament has granted leave to the Member to move the Bill, the Administration of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2018, for its first reading.
MP Baryayanga currently leads the independents, but a proposal to create an official portfolio for such leader met stiff resistance from the opposition and has since been shelved.
The meeting, said Kadaga, agreed to her proposal and adopted the issue of independents as a major talking point for the 2020 conference.
She equally succeeded in canvassing support for the cyber harassment of MPs to be included in the six item agenda.