Government fails to block motion on National Legal Aid Bill

The Attorney General William Byaruhanga failed to block Gulu Municipality MP Lyandro Komakech’s motion seeking leave of Parliament to table the National Legal Aid Policy Bill as a private member.

The draft bill has been before cabinet for more than 10 years stakeholders under the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) presented it.

Byaruhanga opposed Komakech’s move on grounds that his private member’s bill would have financial implications on the consolidated fund yet he (Byaruhanga) intended to table a similar bill.

While justifying his push for a private member’s Bill, Komakech told Parliament that the Bill that he intends to table seeks to address land conflicts and support vulnerable groups like youths and women who fail to seek legal aid due to lack of resources to pay lawyers.

If passed into law, Komakech told the House, the National Legal Aid Bill, 2018 will be critical in preventing poor Ugandans from suffering social exclusion, stating that the absence of a strong legal aid system to ensure the public can obtain legal services when they need them would lead to widespread denial of access to justice.

“The provision of legal aid would offer jobs – thereby reducing on unemployment through the legal aid clinics, justice centres and paralegal advisory services and save MPs from shouldering their constituents’ legal burdens,” Komaketch told the House.

Komakech received bi-partisan support of the House but Byaruhanga insisted that the Bill falls short of the principles of private member’s Bill because of its financial implication on the national treasury.

“That will have financial implications, when you talk about national legal aid, it isn’t necessarily free, government will be paying some lawyers,” Byaruhanga argued.

He thus requested for some time to be able to table the government Bill which
Oulanyah agreed to, but fixed the time within a month beyond which, the Gulu Municipality MP will be allowed to present his Bill to be read for the first time.