Parliament has proposed new standing orders to seal loopholes that successive presidents have used to dodge appearing before the House to answer questions from lawmakers.
Furthermore, the new standing orders also clarify rules on the removal of the leader of opposition, election of the Speaker of the House, voting and what time the House should meet on Wednesday, among others.
However, it was the provision mandating the House to summon the President for questioning that drew more attention as the matter has remained thorny since the country embraced democracy in 1994. So far, only former president Bakili Muluzi appeared before the House to respond to questions.
Speaking in the House yesterday, Legal Affairs Committee chairperson Maxwell Thyolera said the committee, which has been reviewing the rules, was confident the proposed changes to the standing orders and Constitution will ensure the President abides by the requirement to appear before the House.
Details of the exact wording of the standing orders have not been released, but Thyolera said he was optimistic that once enacted, the President will now be forced to adhere to the Constitution.
He said some of the hurdles the committee has dealt with include protocol questions on the sitting plan inside the House when the President has been summoned to answer questions and the exact procedure of summoning the President.
“It is very known that the standing orders enacted in 2004 needed to be changed. On the issue of the President answering questions, the committee was more concerned about making sure the current provisions are able to help Parliament adhere to the Constitution and remove any challenges,” said Thyolera.
Speaker of the House Richard Msowoya urged the House to widely consult on the proposed standing orders.
“These are very important rules and let’s be mindful these standing orders will be used for the next five years. Let’s ensure that we have consulted widely and we should utilise the researchers here at Parliament to give us the necessary information,” he said.
Recently, various opposition parties in Parliament ganged up and pushed for Mutharika’s appearance in the House to answer questions on a number of issues of national interest.