Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has said President Peter Mutharika’s address on Friday during the opening of the 47th Session of Parliament in which he did not mention the issue of electoral reforms, lacked substance and fell short of inspiring hope among the citizenry.
Traditionally, the president’s speech sets the tone for deliberations in the meeting of Parliament.
“While we commend the President for openly acknowledging the myriad ills confronting the nation, including persistent power blackouts, we feel the address was largely uninspiring and lacking in substance as to how the government will address these challenges,” CHRR executive director Timothy Mtambo said in a statement made available to Nyasa Times.
Reacting to the address, CHRR boss said Malawians are indeed suffering as noted by the Head of State.
“We are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst power blackouts in our national history. The frequent power blackouts have cast many Malawians, including the youth, into unemployment, abject poverty and hopelessness,” said the rights campaigners.
In his 30-minute address titled ‘Rising Above Macroeconomic Stability’, Mutharika said the worsening electricity blackouts, which have heavily dented his rule, were due to the failure by the previous administrations to invest in the energy sector, adding that his government has lined up medium and long-term interventions to deal with the challenges.
But CHRR said Malawians don’t want to know who is to blame for the country’s economic quagmire.
“It is in fact irresponsible for the President to continue blaming the problems facing the country on the past regimes. Mutharika was elected on the promise that he would transform the economy. Let him focus on that and not finding excuses,” said CHRR.
“Malawians have so many questions that need to be addressed. For example, why are we constantly being told that inflation is falling, when the cost of living is clearly rising every day? It is disappointing that the president made no attempt to address these questions and other critical issues in his speech.
“While he made mention of the power blackouts that have affected the country, there was no mention of the current shortage of cement that has hit the construction industry; no mention of the youth and the unemployment challenges they are facing; no mention of persons with albinism, no mention of crime or safety, no update on the efforts to contain the bloodsucking rumours and prevent further attacks; no attempt to build bridges and to calm the troubled waters in what is clearly a traumatized and divided nation; and no mention of the electoral reform bills and why his administration has reneged on its promise to bring the bills to the House during the November sitting,” reads the statement.
CHRR also noted with disappointment that President sought to “intimidate and talk down” on parliament and his perceived enemies.
Mutharika took a swipe at MPs for frustrating government business in the House while advancing their political agenda. He stressed that Parliament should never consider itself bigger than government.
“Far too often, we meet here to flex our political muscles. This is not a house for political posturing. This is not our house. Parliament is the House of the people. We are here on the principle of representing the people,” he said.
But CHRR said such talk is “reckless, dangerous, irresponsible and inappropriate.”
Reads CHRR statement: “If the President wants to keep his critics silent, then he must do what the people want and deliver on his promises. Otherwise, he will continue to hear from his critics because anyone who truly loves his country would remain silent when things are going wrong. “
Mtambo said Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led administration should not be allergic to criticism.
“Dislike of criticism and dissenting views is a sign of dictatorship. A critical opposition and civil society has always been the nightmare of tyrants and dictators all over the world,” said the organisations.
It said that now that Mutharika has acknowledged his disdain and hate for criticism, the right campaigners will increase their efforts to make sure that Malawi does not return to dictatorship.
“It is ironic that the President emphasized the need to be accountable to Malawians yet he refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of constructive criticism. This hypocrisy is unacceptable and it feeds into the narrative that his administration doesn’t have a clue as to how to govern this country out of its current economic quagmire,” reads the statement.
It adds: “Respect must be earned, not given. If the President wants respect, which is, of course a noble and righteous virtue, then he must desist from his dangerous and provocative rhetoric. He must exhibit a much higher degree of sobriety and accommodation of contrary and dissenting views and he must display far more sensitivity and restraint in his interactions and discourse with the opposition and those that do not agree with him.”
However. government spokesperson Nicholas Dausi defended the President’s speech, saying it touched on important areas aimed at improving the living conditions of Malawians.
“It is not possible for a speech to touch on all aspects,” said Dausi.
President Mutharika replaced Malawi’s first woman President Joyce Banda in a hotly contested and disputed election on May 20, 2014, promising Malawians a people-centred development approach, long term infrastructure developments, people-driven economic paradigms and a culture of respect for human rights and human dignity for all.
Prof Peter Mutharika, younger brother of former President Bingu wa Mutharika, also promised the country that he would continue from where the latter left in 2012, following his sudden death.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :