The government’s proposal to introduce a position of Assistant Deputy Speaker in Parliament has ignited mixed reactions among political figures and constitutional lawyers. Supporters believe this move would ensure the smooth continuity of parliamentary proceedings, while critics argue that it would be an unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer money.
Despite the ongoing dispute between the government and opposition regarding the failure to present a report on missing persons, the government is planning to amend existing laws to establish the position of Assistant Deputy Speaker of Parliament. The revelation came during a response to queries from legislators by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Norbert Mao.
According to confidential sources, the Assistant Deputy Speaker’s role would primarily involve presiding over less significant parliamentary matters. This would include discussing motions that do not require a full resolution by forwarding the matter to a committee and receiving business in the house that does not necessitate the statutory authority of the Speaker.
Former Parliamentary Commissioner and current NRM Director of Communication, Emmanuel Dombo, supports the idea, emphasizing that previous parliaments have entertained such discussions when both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker were unavailable due to international trips or personal issues. Dombo cited a past incident when the nation lost a former legislator, causing tension as both presiding officers were abroad.
However, some individuals, like National Unity Platform Secretary General Lewis Rubongoya and Constitutional Lawyer George Musisi, question whether this move will genuinely promote unity and meaningful debates, given the government’s vested interests in the house. They remain skeptical about the government’s intentions behind this proposal.
Emmanuel Dombo encouraged the opposition to resolve their differences with the government, viewing it as an opportunity to secure the Assistant Deputy Speaker position.
The proposal for an Assistant Deputy Speaker comes in the wake of the current Speaker, Anita Among, taking maternity leave, granting her 60 days of absence as per the Public Service Standing Orders. With the Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, as the only available option, there is a potential challenge in case of any unforeseen circumstances, leading to a parliamentary standstill. The current law only permits the Speaker and Deputy Speaker to preside over parliamentary sessions, prompting the government’s consideration of the Assistant Deputy Speaker position.