Bingu govt block ‘occupy parliament’ vigil

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika ordered authorities not to allow human rights activists to proceed with their  six-day ‘Occupy Parliament’ vigil to raise their voices  against legislators  proposal to have salaries rise from K390 000 (about $2 335) to K1  000 000 ($5 988).

The ‘Occupy Parliament’ vigil was scheduled to start on Monday but Parliament’s Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda had asked organisers to come with permission from the Lilongwe City Assembly.

The city authorities and District Commissioner for Lilongwe  Paul Kalilombe who had earlier given a verbal nod to the vigil, refused to give an official authorisation, saying their hands were tied as they received “orders from above” not to allow the ‘occupy’ protest.

Chiza Mkandawire: Mutharika has defiled our right to protest

“We are disappointed that another right to freedom of assembly as guaranteed by the Constitution has been defiled by government on orders from President Bingu wa Mutharika,” Ben Chiza Mkandawire, spokesman of the organisers told Nyasa Times from Lilongwe

One of the organisers, Phillip Kamangira said organisers had been in contact with city assembly, the police and the Ministry of Lands from last week where they assured them that they would proceed with the peaceful vigils.

Brian Nyasulu said the activists wanted a peaceful sit-in directly opposite Parliament offices in Lilongwe City Centre.

But Malawi Government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati said the organisers had no basis to stage the vigil because President Bingu wa Mutharika will not approve the salary increase for MPs.

Meanwhile, security forces swamped the parliament premises on Monday in readiness of the ‘occupy’ protestors.

Police said they would not allow the activist to proceed with their vigils without the permission from the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Central Region Police Publicist Assistant Superintendent John Namalenga said in a statement: “The organizers have the obligation to follow procedures laid down before they can conduct the vigil and demonstrate as stipulated in section 103 of Police Act,” reads part of the statement.”

He said according to Section 103 of Police Act, any demonstrations conducted within any building such as parliament, State House, or a court or at an open ground within radius of 100 meters from such building are prohibited unless authorized by controlling authority of the area.

Meanwhile, Speaker told the House that he will meet Chiza Mkandawire to discuss about he vigil, saying there has been no action taken on the salary increase.

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