Independent Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday protested the seating arrangement in the National Assembly after they were allocated seats alongside government parliamentarians.
During the opening of the 2015/16 Budget Session by President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday, almost all independent MPs were seen sitting together with government.
In an interview with Weekend Nation, some of the independent members said they were surprised with the change of the seating plan.
Independent MP for Balaka West, Patricia Shanil Dzimbiri, said she complained to the Speaker of Parliament about the seating plan after discovering she had been allocated a different seat.
“It was strange for me to see the change in the seating plan. In fact, I was not the only one but my fellow members also felt the same. This reflected a bad picture to our constituents,” said Dzimbiri.
Chikwawa North independent parliamentarian Harry Thomson, who is fighting for independent MPs to have a leader and a permanent place in the House, confirmed about the change in the seating plan.
“I was surprised to find out that my name was no longer on the seat that was allocated to me by the Speaker during that last session. I complained to the Speaker and he was equally surprised. I told him to correct the anomaly, if at all it was truly an anomaly,” he said.
According to Parliamentary Standing Order 39 (1), every member shall have a seat reserved for him or her by the Speaker while sub section 5 stipulates that an independent member shall be given a seat on the ‘request to the Speaker’.
A Weekend Nation inquiry established that there has been no written communication from the independent members for their move to the government side.
When contacted, Leader of the House Francis Kasaila said he was aware of the changes adding that were made adding “it had been sorted out”.
National Assembly Speaker Richard Msowoya, who is in charge of the seating plan in the House, confirmed that some members approaching his office to complain about the seating arrangement.
He said the secretariat is responsible for the anomaly, adding that his office would investigate what happened for the independent members to be allocated places on government benches.
There are about 40 independent members in the National Assembly.