Activists geared for ‘occupy parliament’ vigil

Authorities have granted permission to the Forum for Defence of Democracy (FDD) pressure group to conduct their mass peaceful vigil in the capital Lilongwe  for at least five days starting from Monday 5th December  to Friday  December 9 .

Social and political activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire informed last week he had organised an “occupy” movement to move into the National Assembly to protests against government and MPs “to work with the people and not against them.”

But the FDD said it has taken over the role of coordinating the vigils, saying it will be held for five days and “beyond if need be.”

Forum for New Direction (Fond), a north based pressure group has said it will be party to the vigils.

Silungwe: Occupy to express displeasure

FDD informed Lilongwe City Council and Police about the vigil. Mkandawire said on Thursday that “permission has been granted” to organisers to go ahead.

Occupy square

“The vigil will be situated in a location directly opposite Parliament which will ideally attract maximum attention from Members of Parliament, Civil Servants, Ministers and hopefully, the Head of State,” said the organisers.

“The aim of the vigil is, among other things, to convey the public outrage that has emanated from the proposed increase of over 300% on M.P.’s pay packages and peripheral benefits whilst ordinary Malawians suffer miserable agony amidst economic mismanagement manifested by the ongoing fuel and forex crises, punitive taxes on essential goods and services, shortages of medicines etc, and spiralling costs of living that plague their daily lives.”

FDD said it will hold the vigil “in a peaceful manner which would conform to any democratic standards and indeed, is our inalienable right as enshrined in S38 of our Republican Constitution which states: ‘Every person shall have the right to assemble and demonstrate with others peacefully and unarmed’.”

In showing solidarity, FOND spokesman Ndumanene Silungwe told Nyasa Times his group shares the concerns of the proponents of “occupy” movement  about the prevailing environment of uncertainty and chaos currently existing in the country.

FOND called on its members that have the means to travel and participate in the vigil in Lilongwe to do so “overwhelmingly” and those that will not have the means are urged to provide moral support by adding their voice of support wherever they are.

Bleeding

Justifying the call to join the vigil, FOND noted that “there is a deepening economic crisis prevailing in the country” saying Malawi is “bleeding.”

“ Signs are there for all to see – runaway inflation being reflected in the rising cost of basic commodities; deepening crisis of fuels paralyzing the industry; and the reverse economic principles resulting from poor economic decisions including the now openly failing ‘zero-deficit budget’, “ said Silungwe.

“The country has been driven into the path of economic uncertainty that is now bringing untold suffering and misery to the citizenry but a privileged few,” he said.

FOND spokesman pointed out that “the suffering in silence is not only intolerable but self-enslavement in the midst of opportunities of alternatives.” He said the occupy vigil is “that other opportunity to continue expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo.”

Narcissistic traits in Parliament

The group says it share the concern of ‘occupy’ proponents on the traits of insensitivity, opulence and vendettas that seem to be taking root in Malawi parliament.

“We have all witnessed in the recent past how our so called parliamentarians have passed some (in) famous bills to serve their political masters. FOND is concerned that while MP’s employers (the constituents; the civil service) gets poorer, they have rediscovered the parliament as a money minting dome,” said Silungwe.

He said the vigils “will provide an opportunity to remind them the essence of parliament as an arena for service, a place of burden to toil for the uplifting of Malawi. It borders on vulgarity to reward mediocre, a shame in any business ethics.”

 Mass action

FOND has called for mass action, saying voicing out of displeasure on the deepening economic and governance crises in this country must not be left to any one group or individuals alone.

“Patriotism to one’s nation also includes standing up to express displeasure at the things that are going wrong,” said Silunge.

Meanwhile, organisers are calling on people coming for vigils to bring tents , food and water at their ‘Occupy square’.

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