President Peter Mutharika continues to face more condemnation for criticising the Judiciary following the nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election results, with the latest criticism coming from Commonwealth lawyers, judges and magistrates.
A statement jointly issued by the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA), Commonwealth Legal Education Association (Clea), Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) and the Rechters voor Rechters (Judges for Judges), expresses concern over Mutharika’s remarks towards the Judiciary.
Mutharika, an international law professor, has on numerous occasions criticised the five-judge panel of the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court and the seven judges of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal for allegedly “robbing” him of his victory in the disputed poll.
But in the joint statement issued yesterday, the associations state that the country’s democracy will be degraded if court judgements are faulted, particularly by people in high positions like the President.
Reads the statement in part: “The courts are the guardians of justice, the cornerstone of a democratic system based on the rule of law.
“Democracy will be gravely undermined if judgements of the courts are not respected and if there are uncorroborated and unfounded accusations against the Judiciary.”
The associations further state that a democratic State like Malawi based on the rule of law cannot exist or function if government and other State authorities ignore their constitutional obligations and fail to adhere to court orders, adding Mutharika’s sentiments constitute an improper attack on the Judiciary’s independence.
On Monday, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said Mutharika’s continued attacks on the Judiciary can plunge the country into civil unrest and cement lawlessness as well as impunity.
But in an interview last week, presidential press secretary and spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani argued that the President was not attacking the judges but rather exercising his freedom to express his view.
He said: “Let’s not confuse a fair opinion with an attack. The President did not attack the Judiciary, he merely expressed his opinion on their performance and he is perfectly entitled to that.”
Last week, the Malawi Law Society also reprimanded Mutharika over his attacks on the Judiciary, saying the judges duly discharged their constitutional responsibility on the matters before them.
In a letter dated June 7 2020, the Magistrates and Judges Association of Malawi (Majam)–also condemned Mutharika, saying the attacks have the potential to spur the country into a state of lawlessness should the citizenry opt to emulate his attitude.