There was a total state of confusion among members of parliament on Thursday after the law makers were stuck with the Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous Amendment Bill, 2015 that intends to scrap mandatory death penalty.
Whereas the Bill intends to amend the Penal Code Act, the Anti-Terrorism Act, Uganda Peoples Defence Forces Act, 2005 and the Trial on Indictment Act to provide death penalty as a discretionary punishment for any murder conviction, the MPs on Thursday misfired the objective of the Bill. This forced the Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah to defer debate until the mover of the Bill (Medard Ssegonna) harmonises and makes it clear to the Members.
While submitting on the floor of the house, the law makers made made submissions in regards to scrapping or maintaining of death penalty prompting the mover of the Bill Ssegonna to rise on a procedural matter clarifying that the House including the Legal Committee report had diverted from the objective of the Bill.
“The Bill is not saying abolish [death penalty], it is talking about substitution of the sentence ‘mandatory’ with ‘discretionary’ death penalty. That means that instead of saying a person convicted of murder shall face death, the Bill wants it to read that the person convicted of murder is liable to suffer death,” Ssegonna said.
It is at that moment that MPs realized that they ‘debating’ what they did not understand. Even the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs charged with scrutinizing the Bill was entangled in the same confusion.
This confusion and misunderstanding forced Oulanyah to give Ssegonna and his team one week to rectify their Bill and make it easy for the MPs to digest and debate.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), we paused this matter so that we can go and understand it better. There seems to be a little kind of understanding of what we are dealing with. From what the mover is saying, the Bill doesn’t seek to remove death penalty but rather impose it a discretionary penalty. So the court should examine the case and see if they can impose the death penalty. It looks like even the Committee is moving at a different level. If this is the basis of the debate, then we are dealing with a different thing,” Oulanyah said.