Hon. Folks, on Tuesday this week some peculiar scenes characterised events at Parliament in Lilongwe where our members of Parliament (MPs) kick-started a process on the Electoral Reforms Bills as directed by the Constitutional Court.
The first incident involved Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) activists Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence, whose serendipitous existence in the National Assembly sent shivery tingles down the spines of some pro-government MPs.
Soon after catching a glimpse of the two unarmed citizens, Homeland Security Minister Nicholas Dausi wasted no time and stood up on a Point of Order to pronounce that the government would not provide any security for each of the 193 lawmakers during a planned HRDC vigil at Parliament.
HRDC had earlier threatened to mobilise Malawians to the August House to force the legislators to pass the Electoral Reforms just like was the situation during the Section 65 and budget saga that resulted in hostilities in Parliament around 2006/2007.
The rest, as they say, is history; tabling of the reforms was disrupted on the first day as the ‘panic-stricken’ MPs—mostly from one side of the House—demanded the eviction of the two from Parliament.
The second and probably the most depressing episode was an effort by some MPs who audaciously shaped a hostile atmosphere at Parliament’s premises and barred reporters from doing their job while threatening to beat them up.
The reporters, mostly females, were insulted and accused of dating members of the opposition. These words came from no other than an honourable member whose actions ought to be different from a dishonourable member outside the chamber.
Is it not too embarrassing to envisage how some officials have deliberately condensed the dignified status of our Parliament to something else that does not match such a distinctive branch of government?
Of late, there appears to be a deliberate concentration of such attacks on journalists even within the confines of the National Assembly, mostly by the ruling party cadres whose intellect is apparently propelled by partisan political power.
In 2018, a photojournalist was roughed up by party supporters inside Parliament in full view of the police while the Head of State was delivering his State of the Nation Address (Sona).
It should be made point blank that journalists are not there to disadvantage any MP. Their job is to report to Malawians what is being deliberated in Parliament.
Unless one has skeletons to hide in their closets, there is no point in hating members of the fourth estate of government who are clearly partners in Malawi’s development efforts.
The Media Institute o Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter should be commended for stepping in quickly by condemning the “undemocratic and unbecoming” behaviour by some MPs who think treat journalists as spies and enemies like in the latest incident.
Such savagely acts only paint a bad picture of individual representatives at such a higher level and their constituents who usher them to Parliament with the hope that they would competently represent them when critical issues arise.
But when they see their representative behaving like an animal, attacking journalists at will, then they are worried.
The Speaker of the National Assembly needs to continue enforcing Parliamentary Standing Orders to ensure that sanity and discipline prevail in the August House.
This is particularly important now when some legislators continue to demonstrate aggressive tendencies that contradict the natural principles of mature debate.