Speaker of National Assembly Richard Msowoya on Friday ruled that Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera disrespected President Peter Mutharika with the use of words “incompetent President” and “thief” in his response to Mutharika’s address made at the opening of the 47th session of Parliament last week.
Msowoya has since ordered the House to strike off the unparliamentary words from the Hansard saying they are an improper personal reflection on the President.
Government chief whip Henry Mussa on Monday took up the matter with the Speaker arguing that it was out of order for Chakwera who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president to use such words when reflecting on a Head of State.
The government benches were also not happy with statements like “the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is the most corrupt and untruthful in recent memory. Chakwera also said “it is not the only fraudulent deal happening under Mutharika watch.”
The MCP president also took a swipe at the DPP-led administration as allegedly having a “stench of corruption” as well as remarks that “if the President is not a thief”.
In his ruling, Msowoya observed that Standing Order 97 prohibits members from reflecting negatively on the President and that the word incompetent and thief were contravening the rules of the House.
Said Msowoya: “In my view, the remarks come close to reflecting on the President. The first suggests that he is incompetent and insensitive and this is in breach of standing order 97.”
The Speaker however found nothing wrong with the rest of the statements Chakera made saying they were not personally reflecting on Mutharika and that he (Chakwera) justified his claims with an explanation.
The ruling however did not go down well with opposition benches who openly protested in the House labelling the Speaker as biased towards government.
In an interview, MCP chief whip Robin Lowe said the opposition block was shocked with the ruling describing it as biased and that it did not have a place in a democratic Malawi.
He said: “We will sit down as a party and look critically at the ruling because we are now scared. It’s as if the Speaker wants us to start lying by saying the DPP is sensitive and the President is delivering. As MPs, we should be left alone to praise and criticise where necessary.”
On his part, Mussa observed that lawmakers have a duty and responsibility to adhere to rules of the House, even when it comes to respecting the President.
He hailed the Speaker for what he said is a mature and fair ruling. n