The National Assembly yesterday afternoon adjourned after meeting for only 45 minutes after legislators failed to come up with business to deliberate on a day dedicated to Private Members’ business.
Both the government and opposition sides have since observed high absenteeism this week and party whips have been tasked to ensure there is improvement in the second week of the mid-term budget meeting.
Many members of Parliament (MPs) were absent during the morning sitting which was set aside for questions to Cabinet ministers for oral replies.
By 2.30pm, the chamber had only six out of 20-plus MPs for People’s Party (PP), 11 out of about 50 in Malawi Congress Party (MCP), 29 out of about 50 in Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers and seven independent MPs.
As the House adjourned, there were only six Cabinet ministers in the front benches, among them Leader of House Kondwani Nankhumwa.
After exhausting the constituency statements, First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka Chilenje put to the MPs if they had any other business but the question was met with silence.
In an interview, Nankhumwa said he moved the motion for early adjournment considering that the government side did not plan to bring any business to the House since it was private members day.
He said: “It is true that attendance has been low this week and we hope it will improve as we enter the second week. Whips from both sides of the House are running up and down to improve the situation but for today, the private members underestimated how much time it would take to complete what they had lined up.”
However, Nankhumwa said in the morning that some MPs who had put up questions to Cabinet ministers were not present to hear responses.
MCP chief whip Lobin Lowe said the MPs were around Parliament but not in the chamber.
The House will meet for four weeks, including one week set aside for
responses and general debate on Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe’s Mid-Year Budget Review Statement which he will deliver on February 16.
The minister is expected to wind up debate on February 26 and the changes to the budget approved by March 1 before Parliament rises sine die on March 2.n