I’VE tried all week to understand the motivation behind Bufumbira East MP Eddie Kwizera’s suggestion that Uganda raises the retirement age for some positions – from 70 to 75 in the case of the Chief Justice and other judicial officers.
Kwizera confirmed it on television, and said he didn’t have an actual Private Member’s Bill, but had done “some research” into this and thought it serious enough to warrant legislation.
Fighting off a deep urge to describe Kwizera using very unparliamentary language, and ignoring the idea that the MP might have suffered some mental trauma that impinged on his rationality, I did a little ‘research’ into his announcement.
It turns out that Kwizera is not as bad as he first appeared; in fact, by beginning this ‘Raise Retirement Age’ conversation, he is carrying out a major requirement of bringing a successful Private Member’s Bill – more research.
The process is simple, yet designed to avoid having tax-payers time and money wasted pursuing Bills motivated by, for instance, heavy drinking, insanity or plain stupidity: a Member of Parliament gets an idea for a bill, goes to the technical offices of the Parliamentary Commission (Legal and Research, mostly) for help, and the first thing required is research into the idea. It could be a whim, as Kwizera’s appeared to be, that would require fleshing out to find reason; or a terribly bad idea in need of outright rejection voiced in polite language as the employees of the Parliamentary Commission should be well-schooled and practised in, so that the MP isn’t offended or made to feel silly.
Thereafter, a draft is put together for the MP to move a motion on the floor seeking leave to introduce the Bill; and it is crucial, at this point, for the House to debate the proposed draft Bill thoroughly. For government Bills, the equivalent process would be the Cabinet meeting that vets a government Bill before it is brought to Parliament. The debate must be informed, serious and thorough, conducted by sober minds working in the best interests of the nation and its people.
This is a critical stage in the life of a Private Member’s Bill, and in the lives of everyone who is not yet 70, or 69, or 68 (continue till 60).
That’s why I called up my MP this week and wrote to officially tell him I was against the idea of increasing the retirement age of anyone in Uganda – and that’s deputy Attorney General Freddie Ruhindi, so I am quite certain he will be in the House and alert on that day (no snide remarks, please!) The rest of you who, like me, think Kwizera’s idea is selfish, ill-founded, retrogressive, backward, inward-looking and unpatriotic, please ensure your MP is in the House and alert on the day Kwizera’s draft Bill is put on the Order Paper.
If, God forbid, Kwizera’s motion carries the day, then the Bill will be sent to the Government Printer and gazetted.
Then, it will go through the First Reading, and get sent to the relevant Committee (maybe Legal & Parliamentary Affairs), for scrutiny and for stakeholders such as you and I to be consulted. But the Committee cannot crush it. It can make suggestions for amendments and will compile a report to be taken to the House for debate along with the main points of the Bill.
But the Committee can’t reject the Bill.
Thereafter, the Bill will go back to the House to complete the process, and the rest is our future, being controlled by our past.
I haven’t read Kwizera’s research but in this age when the entire globe is grappling with youth discontent and widened gaps between rich and poor, I disagree with the principles he suggests. Yes – some people are still useful and capable of working and have accumulated a lot of experience and knowledge at 70.
But they should be allowed to retire so they write books for the following generations to read and learn from. They should leave the low-paying government service to set up high-charging consultancy practices for those of us with means to pay for – after all, they have gathered so much experience and knowledge!
After working so hard for so long in service of the public, our 70-plus grandparents should be allowed to rest and enjoy the fruits of their long years of sacrifice, served by their energetic and very numerous grandchildren, who are 70% of Uganda’s population!
Plus, as tax-payers we need to have as many professionals and public servants working for us as possible; it stands to reason that with the little money we have available to us we are better off employing cheaper employees to cover the entire country.
And practically speaking, it’s easier for unencumbered young fellows to be sent out to Nakapiripirit and Bufumbira East to work long hours for public benefit than it is to send 70-year olds who have children with children and God-knows what other worries.
Kwizera should research into the ENTIRE picture, not just bits of it –put together all the elements: education, training, public service remuneration, succession planning and pensions, and THEN come up with an idea.
He could also get a group of highly-knowledgeable, useful 70-plus people to help with that research.