KIGALI - Members of Parliament yesterday sought a mandate to have powers to interpret the law instead of the Supreme Court as stated in the newly proposed amendment of the constitution.
Article 96 of the current constitution states the ‘the authentic interpretation of laws shall be done by both Chambers of Parliament acting jointly after the Supreme Court has given an opinion on the matter…’
However, the proposed amendments channel all powers to the Supreme Court to do the authentic interpretations.
MP Alfred Gasana provoked the debate saying that the Parliament should be in position to interpret the laws it passes.
“When we are working on these laws, the Supreme Court is not here and that is why we should be allowed to have the powers to authenticate the laws,” Gasana said.
His proposal was backed by Théobald Mporanyi who proposed that the Supreme Court first consult Parliament before carrying out the interpretation.
He said; “there should be a system where by the Supreme Court consults Parliament before the interpretation is done.”
Defending the preamble bill of the amendments, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Tharcisse Karugarama, clearly assured lawmakers that their job is to establish laws but not to interpret them.
“It is clearly defined in the judicial culture globally, the same system that is being used by the Commonwealth and East African Community. This is why I request you to adopt the preamble so that we can discuss these issues in the extensive revision that will start soon,” said Karugarama.
He added that Rwanda is on the verge of harmonizing its laws, policies and system of operation with the Commonwealth, which is why some of the amendments had to be made.
“We can’t blow hot and cold…we fully have to harmonize our systems,” the Minister added.
Meanwhile, Hon. Juvenal Nkusi questioned why the government had to introduce the amendment of some articles which was not necessary saying that much of the work that has been done so far is rephrasing some of the articles.
“We should rather dwell on the new articles because we may be tampering with articles that were voted for during the referendum,” Nkusi said.
In his response to the lawmaker, Karugarama said that the referendum voted general ideas and fundamental principles which the new amendments are not tackling.
“We cannot and we will not in any way tamper with what was voted for through the referendum; what we are doing here is to polish the law to make it more sounding,” he said.
The Minister was in Parliament to introduce the amendment of the constitution while details of the amendments will be worked on by the Conference of the Parliamentary Bureau and the Chairpersons of Standing Committees.
Among the new articles to be introduced include one that requires the President to give an annual State of the Nation address once every year.
The State of the Nation address will be an annual event where the Head of State will be reporting on the status of the nation to a joint session of the Senate and Lower Chamber.
The Prime Minister will also appear in Parliament once in every term where lawmakers will quiz him on several government policies and will as well update parliament on government initiatives and programs.
According to Karugarama, the new amendment will see the publication a fully revised edition of the constitution.
“The instability of the constitution destabilizes all other laws which is why we have come up with a very stable constitution,” he said.
The amendments will tackle 58 articles of the constitution while the current 203 articles in the current constitution have been scaled down to 191.