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Storm as rare senator shows up with shock letter

A senator who is rarely in the House became the subject of discussion during debate on election laws on Thursday when he arrived brandishing a controversial letter.

Nominated Senator Hosea Ochwang’i, who represents the interests of youths in the Senate, found himself in trouble after he was spotted walking into the chamber with a letter authorising him to vote on behalf of Kisii Senator Chris Obure after the division bell was rang to allow the lawmakers to prepare to vote.

Cord Senators said all along it is Senator Janet Ong’era who has been voting on behalf of Mr Obure on matters touching on counties.

ELECTED SENATORS

Voting on the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2016 must be done only by elected senators because it concerns a matter affecting the devolved units.

Senator Boni Khalwale (Kakamega) said he had heard Mr Ochwang’i whisper that he had come with a letter allowing him to vote on behalf of Kisii County.

Senators Hassan Omar (Mombasa) and Elizabeth Ongoro (Nominated) said it could be wrong to allow Mr Ochwang’i to vote on behalf of a county whose interests he does not represent.

“We can’t allow people going to get letters” said Mr Omar. “The guy hardly attends Senate. You go fish him to come and vote. We don’t mind voting and losing but we mind integrity in the House.”

Senator Amos Wako (Busia) said the senator should be allowed to address the House on the matter.

“I have never heard his voice. He can talk so that we hear him and you make a ruling and we proceed,” said Mr Wako.

Ms Ongoro said the letter should be declared null and void and the senator asked if he carries the aspirations of Kisii County.

VOTE ON HIS BEHALF

In a letter dated October 24, 2013, Mr Obure allows Senator Ong’era to vote on his behalf on any motion that affects county governments whenever he is absent.

But a letter dated January 5 this year authorises Mr Ochwang’i to specifically vote during the special sitting on the election laws.

Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma) and Senator George Khaniri (Vihiga) said a nominated senator is required by the Constitution to consult other members of the county before voting on behalf of an elected lawmaker.

They demanded to know if Mr Ochwang’i had consulted the other senators from Kisii.

Dr Khalwale and Mr Wetang’ula said there was a need to authenticate the signatures to confirm that, indeed, the letter authorising Mr Ochwang’i to vote Mr Obure’s behalf was genuine.

Mr Wetang’ula said Ms Ongera was given unlimited authority to vote on behalf of Mr Obure and it was in force.

“The letter is copied to the relevant offices,” said Mr Wetang’ula. “The signature on the blue letter is not the same as the one on the yellow letter.

LETTER NOT COPIED

“The blue letter is not copied to the Clerk, Mr Ochwang’i himself and any of the delegation members to enable them to arrive on how to consult as envisaged in the Constitution.”

Jubilee senators however came to the defence of Mr Ochwang’i, who pensively watched the unfolding events from his seat, saying the discretion on who should vote lies with the head of delegation.

Senator Billow Kerrow (Mandera) said the letter was specific that Mr Ochwang’i was voting on a specific issue.

“Voting by delegation is about a specific matter. Where we have a letter for a person to vote for a specific matter, he can vote,” said Mr Kerrow.

Besides, he said, Mr Obure had made it clear that he had changed his allegiance and was now a member of Jubilee.

“Don’t be surprised that he has changed his letter from Janet, an active member of Cord. If he has the latest letter, he should vote,” said Mr Kerrow.

VALID VOTER

At one time, Senator Mike Sonko (Nairobi) displayed Mr Ochwang’i identity card and voters card, saying he was a valid voter of Kisii County contrary to claims that he represents Nairobi interests.

The Senate Majority Leader, Prof Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka-Nithi), and Deputy Speaker Kembi Gitura (Murang’a) said if the allegation of forgery is proved, there are clear channels that those aggrieved can use to seek justice.

“The Leader of Minority is not a handwriting expert. He should follow the right procedure,” saod Mr Gitura.

Mr Gitura accused Mr Wetang’ula of imputing improper motive against Mr Ochwang’i while he was not competent to talk about handwriting forgery.

The Speaker ruled that Senator Ochwang’i was justified to vote on behalf of Kisii County because he had express permission from the elected lawmaker to vote on his behalf.

He said those doubting admissibility of the letter had no such powers and they could not determine the authenticity of the document.