Statement by Public Affairs Committee regarding postponement of nationwide peaceful marches slated for 13 December, 2017
The Executive Committee, Board of Trustees and representatives of mother bodies met yesterday in Lilongwe to discuss the state of affairs as regards the electoral and local government reforms in parliament.
We further examined a report on the updates on the planned peaceful marches in the four cities and the rest of the 24dtstrrcts of the country. We also recalled what we presented in the petition delivered to the Head of State and Speaker of Parliament. This is what we said to the Head of State in our petition:
a) Ensure that Government tables Electoral Act Reforms Bill, including the
50%+1 during the current sitting of Parliament. Be warned that ignoring the 50%+1 is a recipe for disaster as we approach the forthcoming 2019 tripartite elections;
b) Ensure that Government tables Local Government Act Reforms Bill, including the removal of MPs voting powers at Council level;
c) Ensure that Government tables Electoral and Local Government Reforms Bills by 2lh November, 2017. Should this not materialize, PAC will have no any other option but swiftly hold a peaceful march nationwide;
d) Ensure that Government prioritizes Electoral and Local Government Act
Reforms Bills so that they are completed during the current sitting;
e) Ensure that Government upholds the will of Malawians who were widely consulted on Electoral and Local Government Act Reforms. Stifling them would be tantamount to suffocating constitutionalism and the collective will of Malawians who put leaders into their respective positions.
Members took time to examine the above requests and noted that 5 out 6 bills have been presented to parliament and that these bills have been prioritized to be debated this week. It was however observed that the government brought some new changes to the bills especially on 50%+1 which now extends to MPs and Councilors. We note that this was not part of the Law Commissions report. We further observe that the Local Government Act reforms have not reached parliament.
The latter for us still remains crucial to improvement of service delivery in Malawi. The approach taken by government to introduce changes to the bills that were not anticipated demonstrates bad intention on their part.
As a body, we analyzed the above developments and decided to come up with a position on the planned peaceful marches. We have resolved to postpone the planned peaceful marches based on key factors. First, the 5 out of 6 reforms bills have reached the parliament.
Although our wish was to see all the 6 reforms bills presented as a package, we are equally gratified by the current development. This is already a plus; an achievement on the part of PAC. Second, the parliament has circulated and prioritized the electoral reforms Bills. To that effect, we have received assurance that parliament will begin debating the Bills this Thursday, I4December 2017.
Third, the key request to the executive arm of government was that the reforms should be tabled in parliament.
Fourth, we would like to give parliament a chance to process and debate these bills.
Generally, it will be recalled that the peaceful marches were targeted at the Executive to present the bills to parliament. Now that they have done so we did not find any wisdom in demonstrating against parliament since the
House has just received the bills.
At the moment, we have not observed any challenge pointing to the fact that they intend to stifle the bills. It is also in this spirit that we made this decision to postpone the marches and monitor the conduct of parliament.
The Executive has done its part though not fully.
We now tum to all faith-based institutions, mother bodies and patriotic citizens who wish Malawi good and were ready to participate in nationwide peaceful marches tomorrow Wednesday 13 December 20L7 . We want to be clear on one point regarding postponement of the peaceful marches.
We want to assure you that we have not cancelled the peaceful marches but only postponed them because we are mindful of the fact that there might be some tricks to delay the bills and not pass them. Should this be case, PAC intends to implement these peaceful marches on the reforms including demonstrable failures on good governance, the current state of affairs and transformative leadership.
In short, the peaceful marches are still alive to be ignited at arty time as we monitor parliament. Meanwhile, PAC secretariat has been instructed to continue putting all necessary requirements in place for the planned marches.
This is our message to government. In order for the reforms bills to be fully debated and passed we demand that government should ensure that funds are made available to parliament to allow them to extend sitting if needs arise.
This is our message to the members of parliament. We appeal to our Members of Parliament to objectively debate the bills and pass them using following their conscience and bearing in mind of common good of Malawians.
We respect the independence of Parliament and hope that the House will discharge their duties based on the will of the people.
As PAC we trust that members of parliament are not there to simply rubberstamp bills from the executive but to responsibly examine, and debate their contents and phraseology in order to ensure that aspirations of the people are upheld before passing them.
Signed on: l2h December, 2017
Rev. Fr. Peter Mulomole
PAC PUBLICITY SECRETARY