The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has blamed Malawi Government for the slow pace of business in Parliament.
CCJP said the Executive has blown out of proportion fuel allowance demands by members of Parliament (MPs) while at the same time not respecting the independence of the House.
Sentiments from CCJP come after MPs have been meeting for the past three weeks, but have only concluded two items of business—adopting President Joyce Banda’s State Opening Address to Parliament and passing the Gender Equality Bill on Wednesday this week, a development that has raised concerns on the seriousness of the MPs.
During the same period, it is estimated that the MPs have received about K141 million (about $391 666) in allowances. In a day, each MP gets K5 000 (about $14) as sitting allowance and K30 000 (about $83) subsistence allowance. The amount excludes fuel allowances to travel to and from their constituencies.
In an interview on Thursday, CCJP national coordinator Chris Chisoni likened the current situation to the days of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika. He was always at loggerheads with Parliament due to his bulldozing of the House and utterances he made during public rallies.
Said Chisoni: “If we take the issue of fuel allowances, the MPs think the President has blown the issue out of proportion and that by her pronouncements, the President does not show respect for the MPs.”
He said the problem was that Parliament is currently shrouded more in politics, a development that has led the House to its loss of autonomy.
Chisoni said although MPs could have a genuine case on the fuel allowances, the issue does not justify the current scenario where they are using taxpayers’ money.
He said the only way out of the current scenario is for government to silently lobby among the MPs rather than show that it would want to be confrontational.
Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) chairperson Undule Mwakasungula said the ongoing dragging of business in the House was a concern that will impact on the welfare of Malawians.
He said he appreciates the issues the MPs are pushing for.
Said Mwakasungula: “We are appealing to the members to put the interest of Malawians first. If they are entitled to what they are fighting for, we don’t have problems with that but they should not link the two.”
Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Dalitso Kubalasa said at this time, when the country is going through hardships, MPs would emerge as true patriots if they “courageously rise above the din of all petty issues in support of the bigger picture and not personal and narrow interests.”
He said: “If it is true that this is due to the differences about fuel allowances and arrears, it would really be unfortunate and they might risk shooting themselves in the foot with everybody else understanding them to be narrow-minded, greedy and self-serving… something they might not necessarily be in the real sense.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda said apart from debating the President’s speech, the mid-term budget review and several ministerial statements, government would also bring a total of 18 bills.
So far, only two bills have been handled and the House had just concluded and adopted President Joyce Banda’s speech.