At 11 am Wednesday, Mr Francis Zaake, the Mityana Municipality legislator was expected to meet with Parliament’s Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline for further questioning over accusations of misconduct following his alleged abusive tweets directed towards the deputy Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among.
However, he did not show face. The meeting would have been the second after his first appearance on Monday.
Mr Abdu Katuntu, the chairperson of the committee later told members that he had been waiting in his office for Mr Zaake but after noticing the time was approaching midday, he was forced to ask their clerk to call his (Mr Zaake’s) senior lawyer, Mr Eron Kizza, to find out whether they would make an appearance.
“I was informed by Mr Eron Kizza that Honourable Francis Zaake had as of this morning (Wednesday) withdrawn instructions to represent him on this matter,” the female Clerk informed members during the proceedings.
She added that Mr Zaake’s phone went unanswered when called and did not respond to a WhatsApp message she sent.
The legislators got bitter over the developments. Mr Isaac Otimgiw (Padyere County MP) said the gesture was a mockery to the committee.
“There is a reason as to why this committee was formed and for a Parliament Commissioner to disregard a call from this committee, I think we should not take it lightly,” he said, adding, “I urge that we continue with a way forward and find a way of making a decision that will bring this matter to an end.”
The other lawmaker who shared similar views was Mr Yusuf Mutembuli, (Bunyole East County) who stated there was no reason as to why they should not continue with the probe even during Zaake’s absence.
“It is someone’s right to (either) appear or not. It should not frustrate us from proceeding,” he said.
Then, Mr Solomon Silwany, (Bukooli County-NRM), who is not a member of the committee, but, was attending the proceedings stated that the House committees are at the level of the High Court and so if they want Mr Zaake, then, they can order for the arrest and forcefully make him appear before them.
For Mr Francis Adome Lorika (Moroto Municipality-NRM), advised that the Committee proceeds with whatever information they had and if deemed necessary, speak to other witnesses.
However, Ms Laura Kanushu, (representing Persons with Disabilities in Parliament) stated that the Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) member was “clearly not interested” in appearing before the committee after previously raising issues of impartiality, lack of independence, a right to fair hearing, among other issues.
“We have other committees where we sit but have spent a lot of time here, therefore, we request that we proceed and then write a report on what has transpired and report to the House as required. Ms Kanushu said.
On Monday, Mr Zaake opposed to the jurisdiction of the committee to handle matters concerning the alleged abusive tweet he directed towards Ms Among.
The Monday meeting was adjourned prematurely after Mr Kizza stated they needed to put into writing reasons explaining their client’s protest against the committee members handling the issue.
Mr Katuntu confirmed Wednesday that the Clerk to Parliament received a document with a response regarding the matter on March 1.
Mr Kizza stated that no law in the country allows the committee to discipline a Member of Parliament regarding things allegedly done outside the precincts of Parliament even if such things are derogatory.
“Things or remarks, however annoying to the Speaker of Parliament or other leader in this House, that happen outside this House or its precincts, including on social media, should be handled there-outside the House and outside this committee,” Mr Kizza partly stated in the document.
However, Mr Katuntu contended that the committee had jurisdiction to handle the matter and were not biased before ruling that the committee would continue with its investigations.