Robinah Rwakoojo has expressed ambition to run for the office of the Deputy Speaker of the 11th Parliament in May this year.
She joins a couple of other MPs who already announced their bid, but the Gomba West County MP on NRM ticket told New Vision in an interview why she is most qualified individual for the office given her legal background.
You were one of the few NRM MPs that made a came back especially given the fact that you represent a constituency where the National Unity Platform Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi comes from?
I attribute it to the cohesion that we had with my campaign team. We campaigned for my candidate President Yoweri Museveni and took the mature approach and were not confrontational at all. I never ever at any of my meeting attacked anyone either because they were in the opposition. I concentrated on my campaign and that of the Party President..
In addition the locals liked me for what I had done and who I was to them. Much as we were in the multiparty system, a number of our voters still looked at the individuals.
I also attribute my win to the grace of God. It wasn’t any miracle of any kind that was performed.
You have declared interest in vying for the position of Deputy Speakership in the 11th Parliament. Why are you interested in this position?
First of all I qualify. I happen to be a lawyer. I worked in the Ministry of Justice for over 25 years and I am grounded on the matters of law.
If you notice, over 80% of the people who have been Speaker and Deputy Speaker have been lawyers and that is how you manage that office. If you look at the Constitution, the chief duty of a Member of Parliament is to legislate. If you legislate, there is no better person than a lawyer to steer you through because you understand those matters. I believe that empowers me and prepare me for that seat.
In getting into the 10 Parliament, I was given position of leadership in show of confidence. I was the Vice Chairperson of the legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee and I am currently the Vice Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Committee.
I was a member of the Appointments Committee and also chaired Select Committee of Parliament that was inquiring into Sexual violence institutions of learning. That gives me the experience to vie for the position of Deputy Speakership.
This will be your second time in Parliament. What is your assessment of the 10th Parliament?
I can’t say we did badly. Yes there is a lot we could have done and covered but we couldn’t partly because of Covid-19 pandemic. I don’t want to blame the house.
But the Parliamentary sessions went on?
Yes, but we had to change and seat outside because we were trying to protect our health and this slowed down our work. The disease affected the whole country and slowed work. Otherwise, the bills were being passed in time.
We have heard several Deputy Speakers before you occupying the same office you are interested in. How different will you be from them?
I would want to see the quality of debate improve. We come from different academic and social backgrounds and when you come to Parliament, it’s because you qualified. Bur regardless of what you have been doing, you are all mixed there. We need to be at par and be able to debate matters effectively. We do have inductions at the beginning of our term but I think at the time people are still excited, tired and so much is going through their mind.
Many of us have not gone through Parliamentary procedure before, you find it’s totally alien to them. We need to undertake constant trainings.
I would like to ensure the welfare of MP’s and the staff of parliament is well catered for. There is a lot being done in terms of good pay, medical insurance but in order to stabilize MP’s their welfare can be improved and made better.
There is also need to get them a place where they can meet as MP’s during their free time.
I would also want to see good networking between the three arms of Government. I know the arms are independent but I want to see better coordination among them.
You talked about enhancing the welfare of MP’s. To the ordinary person, MP’s are paid too much money compared to what others earn…
I want to think that every job has a pay that should be commensurate with what the people are putting in. we are lucky that we have a Parliamentary Commission and they determine what the salary should be.
The pay of MP’s is good but unfortunately it goes back to the electorate and that is a fact. We need to put systems in place that will enhance working of government without the people burdening the MPs. Unfortunately because some of the services are not provided as they should be, a lot of pressure is put on MPs. We are almost going to an era where MP’s do finance private things in people’s homes.
Everything is put upon the MP’s and this has caused us problems. People do think that when you lose a loved one, have weddings an MP should contribute and this has been the practice. I know its African to do it but nobody is given a fund to do this.
What appears to be a good pay ends up being inadequate. I am not saying we should increase our salary but we should be financed adequately.
What we are given are necessities. How do you travel to your constituency without a good vehicle? People are wondering why we are given iPad but we are saving on paper.
On the issue of training, there are claims that the quality of debate by some MP’s in the house is still low
I believe when you do the training, you find out from the members what they want you to focus on. Having been there, I have noticed that the initial induction is not enough. Our bibles in Parliament are the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure which are alien to most of us. Someone may not know how to apply them. Some of the things you realize after going through the practicalities of seating in the house.
If you got a refresher induction after some stay in parliament, it would be wonderful.
There are MP who after being voted in the house are never heard or seen. The 11nth parliament has over 450 MP’s in the house, if you are voted Deputy Speaker how will you ensure each MP at least gets to speak on the floor of the house?
There is already enough in the rules and then in the law. If you don’t attend 15 consecutive seating’s then the Speaker can call you to ask you. When someone is absent from the house, you need to give them the opportunity to explain why they are absent. Is it habitual, is the person sick? Is it due to an eventuality? I don’t think someone intends to just absent themselves.
Communication is key and one would have to enhance that and bring it to the MP’s on the dangers of absenting themselves from the house and giving them, some warning calls.
We now have a system where we log in using our fingerprints and people are very aware. Provision is already there in the law and they just need to be strengthened.
We witnessed a number of tensions pitying the three arms of government especially Parliament against the Executive and Judiciary. You talked about harmonization, how different would you have done it, if you were the deputy Speaker?
Sometimes it’s not easy to know what is coming up on the floor of the house. It’s different if you going to the Session knowing there is issue X, there you can handle it better. The Speaker could have talked to the Deputy and they take a common position on it.
There are things that come spontaneously in the floor and there are people that are naughty and they want to try and get you to lose your head and give a comment that you may regret. You try and control yourself, be calm. That realization and enhancing the good working relationship between the two offices of the Speaker so that we have a common approach.
Also a phone call or two to some from the other arms doesn’t hurt. Many times, people haven’t communicated for long and small things that come out might be misunderstood.
This is going to be the biggest parliament in the history of this country? What do you intend to do as Deputy Speaker to ensure that at least each of them speaks on the floor of parliament?
The thing is to allocate them the same time. I don’t know whether we shall increase the hours of Parliament but you can’t force an MP to talk it’s those that request to talk that you pick from.
We have heard a very bad working relationship between the Speaker and deputy speaker in the 10th Parliament. How different will your term be?
I don’t want you to think that naturally there has to be a conflict. No. if it appear that there is a conflict then it isn’t the usual. I wouldn’t want to comment about what you say is a rift. However as I said, it is important for the two offices to work together. It has happened in the past and it should be strengthened.