Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro halts Cord’s bid to debate security laws

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senate_failsSpeaker Ekwee Ethuro Tuesday evening stopped the Senate from debating the Security Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014, thwarting an attempt by the Opposition Cord to have the controversial laws declared unconstitutional.

Mr Ethuro spared the Jubilee administration the embarrassment of having the contested Act added to the list of laws that the Senate wants to challenge at the Supreme Court.

The laws were passed by the National Assembly on December 18, 2014 amid acrimony and chaotic scenes that left several legislators injured.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission said it would investigate some of those involved in the chaos and recommend that they be declared unfit to hold public office.

Tuesday’s Special Sitting of the Senate was held after a demand by Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula whose coalition, Cord, has also challenged the laws in court. A ruling on the case will be delivered on Friday.

THREE HOURS DEBATE

Mr Ethuro allowed senators three hours to debate the preliminary question of whether the House should discuss a matter that was already in court.

He ruled that since some Cord senators had gone to court to challenge the law, then they had no choice but to await the conclusion of the legal process.

“It is the same of us who are also in court. Let’s exhaust one process. We as a House have fought very hard to ensure we are recognised. Let us give the court the opportunity to conclude this matter. This matter can still be revisited. We can still bring amendments ourselves. We are a law making body,” the Speaker said.

However, Mr Wetang’ula challenged the ruling which he said was bad on the basis that “no one here is a litigant in the case.”

“My worst fears came to pass that the deliberate prolongation of the point of order raised by the distinguished Senator for Tharaka-Nithi was in fact a conspiratorial process to make it difficult for this Motion to be debated in this House,” he said.

He concluded by saying: “You may have your way today. You may not always have your way.”

Outside the House, Mr Wetang’ula and Siaya Senator James Orengo declared Mr Ethuro “a Jubilee stooge” and accused him of conspiring with the Executive to stifle debate.

They said Cord members would meet after the court’s decision on Friday to chart the way forward.

Murang’a County Senator Kembi Gĩtura said the pleadings in court and Cord’s Motion in the Senate were similar.

“Supposing the Senate was to make the resolution today that what was done by the National Assembly was unconstitutional and the court said a different thing. What would prevail? Let us allow the court to make a decision on Friday first and then we can make our decision as a Senate,” said Mr Gitura, who is also the Deputy Speaker, said.

And Mr Kiraitu Murungi (Meru, APK) said: “Our hands were tied because we were prohibited by the standing orders to proceed with this Motion.”

In his contribution on the floor of the House, Mr Murungi said discussing the matter would be contrary to the agreement that the Senate had reached with the Judiciary for mutual respect.

REFRRED TO MARENDE RULINGS

During the earlier three-hour debate in the House, most senators referred to rulings by former National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende, who had allowed Parliament to proceed with debate on matters that were already in court.

Shortly after the preliminaries of the sitting had started, Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki challenged the validity of the Motion on the basis that the matter was “squarely, actively and directly before a court”.

“When I look in this hallowed chamber of the Senate, I see colleagues who are representing the matter as counsel. We are setting a dangerous precedent. We are setting up this Senate to ridicule,” he said.

He was carrying certified copies of the proceedings including the certificate of urgency, notice of motion and the petition filed by Cord.

However, Mr Wetang’ula argued that the Motion was not meant to discuss the court case but the law passed by the National Assembly.

He also referred to a book on parliamentary practice authored by Esrkine May which he said argued that matters of national importance can be exempted from the sub judice rule.

“We are discussing matters of national security. We are not seeking to influence the court’s decision,” he said.

-nation.co.ke

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