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National Assembly Speaker Justine Muturi: I have no apologies

By Nzau Musau | December 21st 2014

The “forceful” passage of the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2014 under acrimonious circumstances has put the performance of National Assembly Speaker Justine Muturi into sharp scrutiny.

More than ever before, critics are now questioning his supposed impartiality, prudence and generally his capacity to steer a largely divided House in the next three years.

CORD leaders like MPs Junet Mohammed and Ababu Namwamba have described the Speaker as a star player for the Jubilee side in Parliament in Thursday’s proceedings while his nemesis Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi is celebrating alleged vindication of his prophecy that “Muturi is unfit for the office”.

Many questions have since emerged overto his role in exacerbating the acrimony, failure to send out errant members who were clearly out of order, his rejection of CORD’s plea for an informal session and his persistence in conducting the affairs of the House blind to obvious acrimony.

But Muturi himself remains stoic, defiant and unapologetic over Thursday’s turn of events which he says were forced by a party which was determined to abort the conduct of the agenda of the day. In an interview with The Standard on Sunday, Muturi defended his conduct on Thursday saying he did his best under “very difficult circumstances”.

“When you preside over processes or events such as these, there will be winners and losers. As a person who has been in the Judiciary for so long, trust me, I am least bothered when people make complaints as the ones being made now. I did what any reasonable Speaker in my position would have done,” Muturi said.

He said he was privy to all the scheming that went on at the CORD side to try and scuttle the debate on the Bill. He said he was even shown Whatsapp messages of CORD MPs scheming to derail the order of the business of a House he had convened.

“Surely, as a convener of the sitting, what was I supposed to do? Sit pretty as the schemes materialised to script? I can assure you, for the CORD members, it was not all about procedures, amendments or the law itself,” he said.

Muturi said that it was “pretty obvious” to him that CORD together with “other outsiders” were determined to scuttle the process, especially after they exhausted all opportunities which they would have harped onto to scuttle the process legally.

He said as the presiding officer, he ensured the alternative views of all stakeholders, including the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), members of public and CORD were incorporated in the process.

“I could not have allowed myself to be held to ransom in spite of all the measures I had put in place to ensure everyone was satisfied. I must remain focused on the greater good of the greatest majority even as I let the disinterested few have their say,” Muturi said.

CORD agenda

Asked why he could not adjourn the House and reconvene another day when matters had cooled, Muturi said that would have played right into CORD’s agenda: “That would have amounted to falling to their trick. They wanted me to say there’s chaos and adjourn to another day. But I was cleverer than them. I had to make a quick decision as to whether I should play right into their game or keep the focus.”

He said he took it that his authority was being undermined and had to be firm. He said one member even hit him with a huge law book in an attempt to divert his attention.

Muturi also denied that he was under extreme pressure to have the House pass the legislation hence his persistence in presiding over chaotic proceedings without sending any member out of the chamber. He said he braved pressure to pass the legislation last week when Parliament was about to go on recess.

“I insisted on public participation even when I knew the House was breaking for Christmas in a few days' time. I did not succumb to the mentality that since the House is going on recess we should limit the right of public participation,” Muturi said. He said there was no pressure whatsoever “from any quarters” to pass the law during the special sitting.

The Speaker said contrary to perceptions that he did not send anyone away, he had already ordered the orderlies to kick out ODM chairman John Mbadi who occasioned the “trigger act” when he walked across the chamber, grabbed the order paper from security committee chair Asman Kamama and tore it as he flayed the papers about.

He said he was also about to order dismissal of Homa Bay’s women representative Gladys Wanga when he realised that he did not have enough orderlies with him to execute his orders.

“I had ordered Mbadi out. But when the sergeant went for him, he engaged him in a tussle. Almost all the other orderlies were guarding the mess and protecting us from attack. I realised they were not enough and since we do not allow police inside the chamber, I decided to hold on,” he explained.

He said he also ordered the ejection of the CORD senators Moses Wetang'ula, Johnstone Muthama, James Orengo and Bonny Khalwale who were seated at the Speaker's Gallery because they broke all the known rules of sitting at the Speaker’s Gallery. “First, authorisation to sit at the Speaker's Gallery is always obtained from the Speaker’s office prior to sitting. They did not do so. Secondly, you cannot sit in the Speaker’s Gallery dressed anyhow. You saw the way they were dressed. Thirdly and most important, you must behave well if you are a visitor and particularly so if you are seated directly opposite the Speaker,” he said.

According to Muturi, the matter of Thursday’s misbehaviour is not over. He says the committee on powers and privileges will sit and review the Hansard with a view to taking disciplinary actions on all who misbehaved on that day.

Earlier notice

He says he had already given the members notice against misbehaving. He also defended the legality of the laws passed while members were shouting, standing and jeering.

“The validity of a law cannot be depended on whether those who passed it were sitting or standing. Besides, I can assure you that nothing in our Standing Orders prohibit passage of laws when members are standing.”

Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo, however, believes the Speaker set a very bad precedent. According to the Midiwo, it is almost impossible that the House will ever degenerate to such a level, yet precedent requiring the debate to go on has been set.

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