The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) on Friday took to task Speaker of Malawi Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda, for failing to implement Section 65 of the Constitution despite many Members of Parliament (MPs) crossing the floor.
An eight-member PAC delegation, led by one of its trustees, Blantyre Catholic Archdiocese Auxiliary Bishop Montfort Stima, asked the Speaker to explain the development during a specially-convened meeting.
The meeting was also convened to brief the Speaker on some observation made during PAC’s Second All-inclusive Stakeholders Conference held in October last year when it was observed that there has been a “serious lack of political will to invoke Section 65”.
Said Stima in his brief to the Speaker: “This is unwelcome development. It is generally felt that within the current administration, failure to implement Section 65 has been a deliberate disregard of constitutionalism despite technical excuses that have been given at Parliament.”
He said following the two conferences held last year, PAC holds the view that Malawians expect the Speaker to take action, especially following the many MPs who dumped their parties to join government soon after Joyce Banda’s People’s Party (PP) technically became the ruling party with her ascendancy to the presidency last April after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika.
“We are very much aware of the freedom of association. However, we have Section 65 of the Constitution and yet you could not implement it at an appropriate time. We would like to know why this failed,” said Stima.
Apart from Section 65, the delegation also discussed with Chimunthu Banda the repealed Recall Provision (Section 64 of the Constitution) which empowered constituents to call back non-performing MPs; the harmonisation of electoral laws to enable the holding of tripartite elections in 2014; the current political governance and economic situation in the country; constitutional reforms and the autonomy of Parliament.
On Section 64, Stima observed that its repealing in 1995 created a constitutional gap in the accountability mechanisms to check the effectiveness of the MPs.
On the economic situation, Stima said it is clear there are hardships in the country and that there is need to put adequate measures to lessen the burden on people.
Chimunthu Banda could not be reached on all his mobile phones on Sunday to comment on the issues raised, but PAC executive director Robert Phiri, who was in the delegation, told The Nation they were satisfied with the Speaker’s responses.
On Section 65, Phiri said the Speaker observed that the major challenge was a provision whereby MPs are able to seek court injunctions before the Speaker determines on petitions seeking to invoke the section whereas in other countries the injunctions are sought after the process is finalised and a seat is declared vacant.
According to Phiri, the resolution of the meeting as well as from those PAC had with the President recently, will form the basis for a follow up conference with delegates to the October 2012 meeting where PAC will report back.