The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) yesterday declined to discuss with the office of the Attorney General (AG) and government agencies how to deal with violence during demonstrations stating they could only do so if the injuction against their planned protests was withdrawn.
Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) applied to the High Court for an injunction to restrict to outside its premises HRDC’s demonstrations scheduled for August to 26 to 30 at the country’s borders and airports, which the rights body said would affect discussions in the meeting.
Various representatives on government’s side from the police, Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and city councils showed up for the meeting yesterday, which was called following a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal order for the two parties to discuss the issue amicably.
The AG was represented by lawyers Loness Michongwe and Nerverson Chisiza, who said they had earlier discussed with HRDC lawyers Geoffrey Taumbe and Khwima Mchizi about the concern over the injunction application.
Mchizi said the fact that MRA, a government agency applied the an injunction although they were aware of the meeting, meant government was not serious about the dialogue.
He said: “The meeting was supposed to take place between the parties but as we were preparing for the meeting, we received an application for an injunction by MRA stopping the demos from taking place.
“The same government that wants to engage HRDC seems to want to sort these issues in court. So, we cannot proceed with the hearing unless the application is withdrawn. We are ready to talk to government if they choose to talk to us in good faith.”
Meanwhile, the hearing for the injunction application is scheduled for today at the High Court in Blantyre.
MRA spokesperson told The Nation on Tuesday the injunction is not intended to stop the protests, but rather to stop people from demonstrating inside MRA premises.
He said: “We are not saying no to demonstrations, but we are saying these are protected areas. We are keeping many valuable goods that are under Customs Control. So, the injunction we are seeking is that demonstrations can take place, but outside the MRA premises.”
Asked if they would withdraw their application following the HRDC demand, Kapoloma said the AG’s office was best-placed to answer.
However, Chisiza said they were not in a position to continue with the meeting. “I believe that the meeting cannot proceed with the request so we will wait from what will come out of the court. But MRA did this not on behalf of government but did it on its own as an entity,” he said.