Senior lawyer Peter Mulira has said that parliament’s powers to amend the Constitution under the current provisions are very limited.
Appearing recently before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to give his opinion on a private member’s Constitution Amendment Bill (No.2), 2017 on presidential age limits, Mulira said that Article 259 of the Constitution provides for it’s amendment.
He, however, pointed out that the same article also restricts parliament’s freedom of action in respect to constitutional amendments.
According to him, parliament cannot carry (introduce) a completely new provision of the Constitution. Article 259(2) states: “this constitution shall not be amended except by an Act of Parliament the sole purpose of which is to amend this constitution and the Act has been passed in accordance with this chapter.”
It is on that basis that Mulira said that the provisions do not specify the procedure for introducing a bill.
“That procedure must be based on an Act of parliament implementing the constitutional provisions we have referred to above. The procedure cannot be found in ordinary rules of parliamentary procedure because the power to amend the constitution does not emanate from chapter VI which gives parliament legislative powers. Constitutional matters are not legislative,” Mulira said.
He noted that parliament’s powers to amend the constitution would call for legislation before MPs can be involved in amending the constitution.
Mulira also urged government against suppressing the rights and opinions of the few in the country by taking advantage of its parliamentary majority.
“What I have said leads to the conclusion that constitutional issues are not determined by majorities. A constitution is a pact between people who agree to come and live together under one government,” Mulira said.
“If that government decides to trample on the rights of one section of the people through the majority it enjoys, that would amount to tyranny by the majority and the result will be chaos such as we are witnessing today in our country,” Mulira added.