The absence of the Cabinet yesterday forced the adjournment of Parliament 90 minutes earlier after several members of Parliament (MPs) noted that debate on the State of the Nation Address could not proceed without appropriate officials to respond to observations.
Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya told the House after a 45 minute suspension to confer with party leaders that the sitting could also not proceed in the absence of a business committee, whose members comprises Cabinet ministers and leaders of political parties in Parliament.
Said the Speaker: “The party leaders observed that since there is no business committee, we cannot proceed with Parliament business so I adjourn the House to 9.30am tomorrow.”
But it remains to be seen whether Parliament will proceed to meet today since a full Cabinet is yet to be appointed three weeks after new President Peter Mutharika was sworn into office.
So far, there is only one Cabinet member, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe and some political parties have not constituted their leadership in the House.
Salima North West MP Jessie Kabwila (Malawi Congress Party [MCP]) said there was no government in Parliament in the absence of Cabinet ministers who make up the Executive.
However, Mulanje South West MP George Chaponda’s (Democratic Progressive Party [DPP]) remarks that arguments over the Standing Orders, seating plan on government side and lack of Cabinet was a waste of taxpayers money irked the opposition side.
Salima South MP Uladi Mussa (People’s Party [PP]) argued that Parliament could not proceed to debate the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President on Tuesday in the absence of Cabinet members.
Chiradzulu East MP Henry Mussa (DPP) raised the issue of whether debate on the State of the Nation Address should start when the order paper was not formulated by a business committee, as Standing Orders dictate.
The issue of the Cabinet and whether the House should use Standing Orders adopted by the last Parliament in November 2013 or use 2003 Standing Orders forced the Speaker to suspend the House to allow consultations with leaders of political parties.
The Speaker yesterday officially declared MCP president Lazarus Chakwera as leader of the Opposition in Parliament and also outlined how membership of Parliament committees would be instituted.