- Demands explanation on MPs’ arrests
Parliament’s Committee on Privileges yesterday summoned Inspector General (IG) of Police Lexten Kachama to explain the arrests of two members of Parliament (MPs) Jessie Kabwila and Peter Chakhwantha.
The summons followed concerns by Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya who prematurely adjourned the House last week on the basis that he personally and MPs were not assured of their security in light of the arrests.
The Committee on Privileges was established through Standing Order 163 to inquire into any complaints of contempt of Parliament or breach of privilege.
Kachama’s summons came after the Speaker reported the alleged breach.
Committee chairperson the Reverend Christopher M z o m e ra N g w i r a confirmed that the IG appeared before the committee at Parliament’s request.
Ngwira, who is Mzimba Hora MP (People’s Party- PP), said the meeting was heated but cordial because the committee expressed its concerns, in particular about the police flouting the Constitution by arresting MPs while Parliament was meeting.
He s a i d i t wa s Parliament’s view that the authority of the Speaker was undermined when the police mounted a roadblock close to Parliament to capture Kabwila and Chakhwantha on their way from attending a Parliament meeting.
Said Ngwira : “ I t is our contention that there must be a proper procedure when the police want to arrest a member of Parliament. In the end the IG apologised and said next time when they feel the police has not done well, Parliament should approach them to iron out differences. He said let us forgive each other and move forward.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a member of the committee told The Nation that the IG and his team defended their action by citing Section 152 of the Constitution which gives the Malawi Police Service mandate to arrest anyone if there is factual and legal justification.
“The IG said there is no law that bars the police from erecting roadblocks even when Parliament is in progress. He said the police could act in any manner it felt necessary even on MPs,” the source said.
The police officials told the committee that roadblocks would continue as long as they were necessary and Kabwila and Chakhwantha’s warrant of arrest necessitated the roadblock.
Kabwila was eventually ar r e s ted about 500 m e t r e s f r o m t h e Parliament building as she attempted to enter the German Embassy while Chakhwantha handed himself to police.
Malawi Law Society has since condemned the arrests and faulted the mode of granting bail which the police adopted.
The law enforcers granted police bail to the two MPs and Malawi Congress Party official Ulemu Msungama on charges of sedition which was later changed to treason to justify arresting the MPs when Parliament was in session.