Overzealous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters, clad in their party regalia, Friday tussled with organisers of Martyrs’ Day commemorations in Nkhata Bay as they tried to force their way to a memorial pillar where people had gathered to respect the fallen heroes.
The organisers did not want people to put on party colours, but DPP youth cadets defied the order, as they put on party regalia, singing songs praising their party leader President Peter Mutharika, who is also President of the country.
In fact, during presentation of speeches, Senior Chief Mkumbira, who was chairperson of the organising committee, strongly spoke against the act, stressing that the event was not political.
“This is a funeral ceremony, and during such ceremonies, we are all in a sombre mood. It is not an event to put on party colours, we are mourning. We made requests through the media that we have to respect the fallen heroes by not putting on party colours, but it is sad that some people decided to defy that.
“Look at the likes of Goodall Gondwe, Lazarus Chakwera and other notable dignitaries, they have put on black suits which is ideal for a funeral ceremony. I must say that I am disappointed. We must take this as a national event, not a political rally,” he bemoaned.
Mkumbira made reference to an event a few years ago when former president Joyce Banda put on a religious uniform, stating, that is how leaders must behave.
“Former president Joyce Banda came here, and she was in a women’s guild uniform, that was good, not like those who choose to put on party colours despite many requests for people not to put on party colours.”
Mkumbira got a backlash though from Civic Education, Culture and Community Development Minister, Patricia Kaliati who, despite being booed by the audience, argued that there was nothing wrong with DPP cadets wearing party colours.
Kaliati said amid boos: “Are you saying some of us who have not put on black suits have not dressed well? The President [Peter Mutharika] sent Honourable Gondwe who is DPP vice-president in the North, and you expected party loyalists not to come?
In his speech, Gondwe said Nkhata Bay holds unique history in the country, and people in the district must work with government to ensure that the 31 people who died on March 3 1959, did not die in vain. n