Former speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda says the repealed Section 64 of the Constitution which empowered constituents to recall a member of Parliament (MP) is an important law, especially in countries that follow the first-past-the-post electoral system such as Malawi.
Chimunthu Banda was speaking yesterday in Blantyre when he presented a paper during a Public Affairs Committee (PAC) Post-Conference Strategy meeting on ‘Section 65: Experiences and Recommendations’.
He said those advocating the reinstatement of the repealed section should go further to propose the grounds for recall because the provision, which was removed from the statutes, only had procedures of removing a legislator.
Chimunthu Banda cited Uganda as a country that has implemented the provision easily because their constitution, the parliamentary act and parliamentary standing orders are clear on procedures and grounds for recall.
He said some of the grounds in Uganda were physical or mental incapacitation, misconduct or misbehaviour that brings the office of the MP into disrepute and persistent desert of the constituents without reasonable cause.
Said Chimunthu Banda: “It [Section 64] is an important piece of legislation, especially for countries like Malawi that follow the first-past-the-post electoral system. It is my strong recommendation that PAC should go beyond simply asking to bring back the recall provision, but come up with a law that provides procedures as well as grounds for recall.
“When we are talking about bringing back a recall provision, we should be talking more about bringing back the concept of the recall, but not in the form as it was before it was repealed.”
On Section 65, the former speaker, who at one point said his hands were tied to act on MPs deemed to have crossed the floor, said the provision is ambiguous at the moment, especially where the Standing Orders state that the Speaker can only act after being petitioned.
He said in other jurisdictions, the law is clear that once an MP has crossed the floor, the Speaker has the power to declare the seat vacant. He further said the law in other countries is also clear on the status of independents when they want to change positions in Parliament.
Chimunthu Banda recommended that Section 65 should be amended for purposes of removing ambiguities and to extend its application to independent MPs.
In his opening remarks, PAC chairperson the Reverend Dr. Felix Chingota said it is unfortunate that Malawians shy away from debating critical issues affecting their country.
Said Chingota: “As PAC, we still believe that our society lacks a vibrant debate on pertinent matters. In view of this, our activities will continue to spark debate on key issues that affect our country and on those that will contribute to the promotion of peace and unity.
“Any society that avoids controversies and constructive criticisms cannot triumph in its developmental agenda. It for this reason that PAC will enhance public dialogue on various issues so that Malawians are guided on the direction of this country.”
He said after the meeting, the committee will take a position on some of the issues and share with President Peter Mutharika and other authorities in pursuit of advocacy and promotion of peace.
Among the issues under discussions, the delegates were to develop practical strategies for dealing with sections 65 and 64 of the Constitution, reviewing electoral systems and share experiences on what constitutes civil service reform.