By Our Reporters
Last Monday wasn’t a good day for Trade Minister Ann Amelia Kyambadde. Renowned for her genuine love for poor people (some call it populism), Amelia turned up with a heap of documents. This was in preparation for her subsequent presentation trying to make a case to cabinet that the proposed introduction of the digital stamp mechanism (ostensibly to improve tax administration) was bad manners and should as such be dropped. She kept reading from a comprehensive document MTIC technocrats had prepared for her and insisted the new tax measures were unnecessary as increased tax burden would only make worse an already bad situation for majority traders and manufacturers. As soon as she finished making her case, the session chair called for reactions for the debate to start. Perhaps to appease President Museveni, who was keenly in attendance, a number of minister spoke disapprovingly of their colleague Amelia’s presentation. The biggest argument was that it was unpatriotic to be hostile to the new tax measures aimed at improving revenue generation for the government yet the duty to popularize the same squarely lies with her MTIC ministry. But Kampala Minister Beti Kamya and the controversially very outspoken Sarah Opendi (of health) spoke loudest to the extent that at some point, Amelia urged them not to “take it personal.” Kamya, who was separated from Amelia by Irene Muloni in the sitting arrangement, went as far as asking what “such a minister” was still doing in Mzee’s cabinet given her track record of always siding with the business community, the public and manufacturers each time government imposes new obligations aimed at increasing revenue generation. Kamya said it was improper for a cabinet Minister to always make submissions that side with the population to the detriment of the GoU whose interest is to promote and propagate the same very policies. “I don’t understand what my colleague is still doing in cabinet. She seems to clearly belong to the business community and manufacturers,” Kamya was quoted to have said. “She was very eloquent as usual and Amelia couldn’t manage her quick wittedness as you know and her submission clearly left Amelia very broken,” added a source wondering what would have happened if Muloni wasn’t sitting between the two very belligerent ministers. Being Kampala Minister, Kamya primarily serves almost a similarly economically very active constituency like Amelia which is the business community. Some ministers wildly cheered saying they liked Kamya for eloquently calling a spade a spade as opposed to beating around the bush. Not even her two junior colleagues Micheal Werikhe and Ngobi Gulume bothered saving Amelia. They indifferently looked on as their boss was drowned into a sea of criticisms and castigation by majority of the cabinet members. Well informed State House sources say the duo had met the President and got to know his determination to implement the digital stamp along with other tax measures and knew that backing Amelia would be contrary to what the big man wants. Mulengera news understands that Amelia (who some ministers envy for regularly travelling abroad) was away for official duty when the two juniors met the H.E. and got to know his views. Ironically they never warned their boss, leaving her to cruise into a deadly ambush during the Monday cabinet sitting.
Renowned for her outspokenness and sometimes controversial views, Sarah Opendi supported Beti Kamya in arguing that time had come for Amelia to decide between always defending the interests of the business community/UMA manufacturers and continuing to serve in cabinet. She referred to earlier occasions where the Mawokota North MP was uncomfortable with government policies she perceived to be oppressive to the poor and business community. One of the examples that were referred to was the ban on kaveera which people-centered Amelia was faulted for not being very enthusiastic about. On seeing that the hostility directed at the trade Minister was unrelenting, Premier Rugunda weighed in calling for calm but the heckling didn’t abet that easily prompting Museveni to weigh in too. The big man from Rwakitura, who directly mentored Amelia for 40 years until 2010 when she quit his PPS office to run for Mawokota MP Seat, contradicted many of the things Amelia had said. He disputed her claim that the digital stamp policy wouldn’t work here because even other countries like Kenya were cautious about it. Museveni insisted that Amelia was comparing situations that are totally different and insisted the new tax measures would be implemented not necessarily because Amelia is wrong but because they constitute important interventions for URA to overcome gaps in tax administration. For comments, call, text or whatsapp to us feedback on 0703164755.