The position of Law Commissioner remains vacant months after Gertrude Hiwa left following the expiry of her term of office, raising fears that reviewing of the country’s laws may suffer.
The absence of the office holder has also affected the appointment of new commissioners for the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) as the Law Commissioner, alongside the Ombudsman, submit nominations to the President, according to Section 131 (2) of the Republican Constitution.
Section 133 (a) of the Constitution states that the Law Commissioner shall be appointed by the President on recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
Responding on behalf of the JSC, Civil Service Commission (CSC) under which all commissions fall, has confirmed that a Law Commissioner is yet to be appointed.
CSC spokesperson James Mpando said the JSC has so far received curriculum vitaes (CVs) from which to pick a recommendation to President Peter Mutharika to make an appointment.
He said: “The Judicial Service Commission has received CVs which are being scrutinised for it to make a recommendation to the President in line with the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.”
However, several commentators have bemoaned the delay in appointing a Law Commissioner, saying it could have negative consequences in the long run.
In an e-mailed response on Wednesday, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Alfred Majamanda said the office of Law Commissioner should not stay vacant has its powers to review and make recommendations on matters pertaining to the country’s laws and applicable international law, among others.
“The Law Commissioner is the head of the Law Commission. It may thus be inferred that some work may not be carried out well in the absence of the head of the institution,” he said, adding the current scenario could have been avoided.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) observed that the vacancy was leaving some constitutional procedures unattended to.
CHRR executive director Timothy Mtambo said the appointment of human rights commissioners started but the process has stalled because the Ombudsman cannot make decisions alone.
On his part, Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament chairperson Maxwell Thyolera also hinted that his committee would follow up the matter with the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
Hiwa’s term ended in June but she remained in office because the Office of the President and Cabinet did not assign her to another post until August.