Members of Parliament are asking government to provide them police security ahead of the May 21 Tripartite Elections, citing incidences of violence targeted at them.
If the proposal goes through, it would mean providing about 170 police officers to act as bodyguards for the MPs, except for Cabinet ministers, the Speaker and his deputies who are already entitled to the security detail.
Already, President Peter Mutharika has directed that persons with albinism should be given 24-hour police security detail, a development that could take away the few officers on the ground.
MPs Welfare Committee chairperson Alex Meja said in an interview yesterday that legislators are being attacked and deserve government protection just like other arms of government such as the Judiciary.
He cited the attack on Mulanje West MP Patricia Kaliati in her constituency and at Parliament Building, attacks on Mulanje South MP Bon Kalindo, Mzimba North MP Agnes Nyalonje, Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua and Salima South West MP Jessie Kabwila.
Said Meja: “We think the police should come up with a taskforce to understand these attacks on MPs. We are of the view that we should be provided with security protection.”
But when questioned on whether police detail was part of their entitlement as MPs, Meja argued that as representatives of the people, they deserved more security than commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission.
He indicated that Uganda and Kenya as some of the countries in the region whose MPs have police protection.
Meja said this was a mere proposal which would be presented to the Public Appointments Committee which deliberates legislators’ perks.
Justifying the proposal, Meja said the legislature was the only arm of government which was representative with a direct responsibility to people at grass roots.
He claimed it was this representative responsibility that made their job risky, thereby requiring protection.
“The risk to our lives is not of our own making. We do government work and we are public servants. Why should I provide my own security? We will wait for feedback because we understand this is something that cannot be done overnight. If we agree as a nation that the risks are high for an MP, then we should be considered,” he said.
However, Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi, under whom the Malawi Police Service falls, could not commit himself to responding to the proposal.
“What I can say now is that we have heard their proposal, although they have not put it in writing. We will consult the relevant stakeholders on the way forward,” he said.
The Malawi Parliament has one of the highest turnovers during elections at 70 percent over the last five elections, meaning that the majority of MPs currently in Parliament might not return after May 21.