The Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) has faulted President Peter Mutharika in his one year in office for showing signs of intolerance to his critics by branding them ‘unpatriotic’.
In a report, which is the outcome of a consultative stakeholders conference that was held on July 15 and 16 in Salima to reflect on Mutharika’s one year in office from a human rights and governance perspective, CHRR says although Mutharika has only been in office for one year, he has, among other things, shown signs of intolerance and lack of leadership on critical issues.
Reads the report in part: “The year has also been characterised by vestiges of intolerance to dissenting views with critics of the regime subjected to verbal attacks by either the President or his party’s leadership. CSOs, academics, and media practitioners have been labelled ‘unpatriotic,’ accused of tarnishing the image of the current leadership, challenged on concentrating on ‘trivia’ and practising ‘mercenary’ journalism.
“The one year in office of President Mutharika has to a larger extent been characterised by his failure to provide leadership on critical issues of national concern. The President has often been accused of being silent on critical issues requiring his decisive leadership, including those relating to Nacgate, Malawi Savings Bank, the Judiciary strike and others. In the midst of such silence, there have often been inconsistent messages coming from his government, and in some cases Cabinet ministers contradicting his position.
“The tone President Mutharika has set so far will go a long way in determining how he would like to run the country in the next four years. Further action must be taken by the President and his government to match rhetoric. It is important for President Mutharika to take charge and walk the calling.”
Presidential press secretary, Gerald Viola, has described the report as fairly done although there are some areas the presidency does not agree with.
Viola said one wonders whether intolerance could be a fair judgement considering that Mutharika has allowed people to make unfair comments of him in the media and other different forums.
Said Viola: “We can’t agree with all of its contents, but it’s up to people to judge upon their evaluation. We have had leaders in this country who can easily be defined as intolerant but not this one. The President doesn’t like talking or responding to accusations being made by people and I don’t know if one can describe that as intolerance.”
The consultative conference was attended by civil society organisations leaders, political party representatives, media practitioners and academics who took stock of the progress made, and challenges met in the one year.
According to the report, there has not been much progress on Access to Information Bill despite continued assurances that the bill would be tabled soon, as such Malawians continue to wait for the fulfilment of this promise, which government has repeatedly made both on domestic and international forums with the latest being the 56th session of African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Banjul, Gambia.
Although CHRR, through the report, has commended government for taking an initiative to improve housing conditions through the introduction of Cement and Malata Subsidy Programme, it has asked government to avoid politicising the programme so that all intended beneficiaries access the facility.