ABSENTISM GETS MINISTER BARRED FROM PARLIAMENT AS HE EVADES QUESTIONS
The saga of the Southern Bypass, for which the Kenya Government has apparently sanctioned the excision of a major tract of land from the Nairobi National Park, has last week reached parliament and left the government and in particular the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Mr. Noah Wekesa with egg all over their faces.
Knowing full well that questions were being asked last Wednesday, being the designated Question Time for Members of Parliament, the Minister and his assistant minister were conspicuously absent from the house, prompting the Speaker to first take the Leader of Government Business to task before then banning the Minister and the Assistant Minister from the house for the rest of the day for gross absenteeism and for evading the questions.
The Speaker then also ordered that the questions be asked again next week on the Order Paper, making sure this affair was not to be swept under the carpet.
The searching questions, including what prompted government to violate the rights of parliament with their decision, as only parliament can actually de-gazette a section of any national park, will be of particular importance as it reflects on the constitutionality of the cabinet decision.
Here below is the entire question shown to bring readers up to date on what the matter at hand involves, as well as the reaction from the Speaker:
DISREGARD OF NEMA RECOMMENDATION ON CONSTRUCTION OF SOUTHERN BY-PASS
Dr. Otichilo: Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to ask the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife the following Question by Private Notice.
(a) Could the Minister confirm that the Government has approved the degazettement of parts of Nairobi National Park for the construction of Nairobi Southern By-Pass road against the recommendation of NEMA?
(b) Is the Minister aware that the de-gazzettement of any national park in the country is prohibited by law without the approval of Parliament?
(c) Is the Minister further aware that implementation of the proposed degazettement will set a dangerous precedent for demands for de-gazettement of various parts of national parks in the country by the local communities and could the Minister assure the House that the proposed de-gazettement will not be implemented and instead the earlier planned road reserve will be repossessed from illegal allotee(s) and developer(s) who may have encroached on the same?
Mr. Speaker: Minister for Forestry and Wildlife? Leader of Government Business, even though I was away from the proceedings of this House this morning, I Followed what transpired and your Minister really ought to be here to answer this Question.
The Minister for Transport (Mr. Kimunya): Mr. Speaker, Sir, now that they are aware that they are being looked for, perhaps we could give them some time to see whether they will come before the end of Question Time. Then otherwise, I will advice you on what we will do.
Mr. Speaker: Order! We have previously ruled that there is nothing like second round; giving another opportunity. The time when the sittings of this House commence is cast in stone as you know for many years. If the House meets at 2.30 p.m., it starts at 2.30 p.m. promptly. If it starts at 9.00 a.m., it starts at 9.00 a.m. So in that circumstance, I am afraid there is no reasonable explanation as to why the Minister is absent. So, I order that the Minister is not permitted into Parliament or the premises of Parliament for the rest of today. So the Minister will not have access to any place in Parliament. This Question will appear again on the Order Paper on Wednesday next week. Dr. Otichilo, please note. The Serjeant-at-Arms Office, comply, strictly so. The Minister includes the substantive Minister and the Assistant Minister. They will not even have access to their offices in Parliament.
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OFFICIAL REPORT Thursday, 21st June, 2012
In addition has a suit been launched in the High Court in Nairobi filed by the East African Wildlife Society, ANEW the African Network for Endangered Wildlife and Dr. Paula Kahumbu, to determine the legality of the cabinet decision and in the meantime put an injunction on the project, or at least those parts which would cause an incursion into the national park itself.
Watch this space of how this will play out on Wednesday this week and if the minister will again be absent or finally show up and take a stand and explain exactly what went on in cabinet when this seemingly illegal decision was taken and parliamentary rights encroached on.