Minister of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education who is also sovernment spokesperson, Patricia Kaliati has accused Public Affairs Committee (PAC) of being confrontational, saying government is not happy with the grouping following a published interview of PAC spokesperson Father Peter Mulomole to reflect on the meeting with President Peter Mutharika to submit recommendations from the 5th All-inclusive Stakeholders Conference and other concerns.
Nyasa Times reproduces the interview which appeared in Nation Publications by Albert Sharra.
Q:Are you happy with the way the meeting went?
A: We are happy that the President finally met us. That in itself is quite an achievement. We all remember that the audience failed to take place on 29th March 2016. So, we are happy for such a gesture.
Q: Did the meeting achieve what PAC wanted?
A: Not really. PAC had assumed that we would submit the recommendations and actionable resolutions. There would, of course, be comments and questions for clarifications. Then the President and his team would sit down and seriously and systematically respond to our recommendations. He almost said he was going to do that. But then turned around and began responding to them there and then and in a very casual manner.
He trivialised the whole exercise and made us feel like we were wasting his time since his government was already doing most of the things we were recommending. While PAC had put more time and effort into the exercise to enable the President appreciate people’s feelings on the ground, he ended up saying practically that it was no news to him and he was already taking care of most of the things. His rhetoric seemed totally out of tune with majority Malawians today. The President and his Democratic Progressive Party [DPP]-led government are living in a world of their own. It was really a lost opportunity for the President.
Q: Contrary to tradition, the meeting was captured live on television. Was this part of the plan?
A: Though we were alerted about it, few of us took it seriously. That scenario had its advantages and disadvantages when the Head of State himself was our dialogue partner. There are some things that you don’t want to say for fear of embarrassing the Presidency in public. It worked perfectly well for the President since he could say anything and hoped that PAC would not come in immediately to correct him out of respect. Remember, PAC was there to submit the outcomes of the 5th All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference and provide clarifications to questions and not really for a direct confrontation.
We wrongly assumed that the issues that we were placing before the Head of State and government were serious and of great national interest and, therefore, needed time on his part to respond since it was he who had asked for help. However, it seems the President did not see it that way. For him, it was just one of the many audiences he holds every day and so it was business as usual.
Q: On several occasions, PAC officials seemed to be disorganised and struggled to justifysome of the issues they raised in the petitions presented to the President. Why was that so?
A: I beg to differ. We were just shocked that the Head of State seemed not to be aware of some critical issues when, in fact, his officials have been attending our conferences where all the issues raised in our presentation were generated. We had a tough exercise to discuss with the Head of State in a live broadcast given that he maintained from the outset that he had been transformative and that there was no need for some of the actionable solutions. And yet those issues have constantly been raised in all the three regions of Malawi.
Then the second part has the actionable resolutions, well-articulated. In the end, he himself admitted that we had done ‘brilliant’ work. We have circulated the report after the audience and people will judge for themselves.
Q: Mutharika complained that you submitted a fresh document to discuss just 30 minutes before the meeting when he had another document which you submitted in February. What happened?
A: Definitely not 30 minutes before! In Malawi, akulu salakwa [you cannot fault a leader]. First of all, it should be understood that we shared the communiqué with State House in February not necessarily directed to the Head of State for his action, but to inform Malawians generally in terms of the general outcome of the 5th All-Inclusive Conference.
Secondly, we had to package all recommendations and actionable resolutions for Mutharika’s action. The latter were shared to the President a day before and this can be confirmed by PAC secretariat. We were also surprised that he had received the document 30 minutes before the meeting when PAC secretariat had a conversation with Office of the President and Cabinet [OPC] and presidential adviser on non-governmental organisations [NGOs] a week before regarding the document to be deliberated on. We feel it’s more about their internal challenges than ours. We do not want to dwell much on this matter. The PAC board was updated on these processes a week before the meeting. We have emails sent to his officials sharing draft documents. So, it is surprising that he had it 30 minutes before.
Q: What is the way forward?
A: First of all, we now expect a written response from the President as he did before the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections with the 19 points PAC had presented to him. Then the PAC chairperson asked for technocrats from both sides to develop a way forward to the Actionable Resolutions, especially those points the President found difficult to understand. In short, the follow up meeting of technical people will aim at clarifying and changing the documents. The President and his DPP may hate deadlines, but Malawians do not. So let the President not belittle what the conference has recommended. Malawians should not be taken for granted.
Q: Any last comment?
A: Malawi still lacks a listening and bold servant leadership. There is too much Executive arrogance. We lack the kind of leadership that is ready to make hard decisions the country needs on various issues such as Fertiliser Input Subsidy Programme, Green Belt Initiative, crop diversification, fiscal discipline, reduction of presidential powers, our flawed electoral system and reactionary Constitution. Most of the decisions that administrations have been making are for political convenience and not for real national developmentFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :