Malawi’s leading human rights watchdog Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has urged opposition parties to use their numerical advantage in Parliament to push for reforms in archaic sedition and treason laws instead of just being cry babies when they have the capacity to push for such changes.
In their recent statement made available to Nyasa Times and signed by CHRR’s executive director Timothy Mtambo, the rights group observe that both the government and opposition appear to be comfortable with the sedition and treason laws despite the existence of ample evidence suggesting that these laws have been used to inflict misery on political opponents and that they infringe on the constitutional right of free speech.
The watchdog wonders why the victims of such charges mostly the Opposition members have not used their numerical advantage in Parliament since 1994 to push for either repeal or redefinition of these laws.
“Why have they just been appealing to public sympathy in a cry baby manner when they have the ultimate powers to push for change or reform of these ‘archaic’ laws when they have the ultimate powers to push for change or reform in these laws.
“ It is in our considered view that there is a general consensus amongst the current crop of politicians – in a case of accidental leadership – since 1994 that they need these laws as a tool to attack or revenge on their critics especially those in opposition,” noted Mtambo.
He said sedition and treason charges have been used or seen as “vengeance” laws by Malawi politicians “hence the docility towards change.”
CHRR further urges the opposition members to push this agenda in Parliament as soon as possible as it is in the national interest.
“ If Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the rest of the opposition including Peoples Party and AFORD want to be taken seriously about their recent discontent with the current sedition and treason laws, let them push this agenda in Parliament as soon as possible .
“The opposition should further publicly support PAC’s recommendations for government to swiftly act on the 2007 Law Commission’s Constitutional Review recommendations by piling pressure on government outside and inside Parliament to ensure that they are tabled in Parliament. “
CHRR said some of the key recommendations of the 2007 Constitutional Review which the opposition must push include: the Re-introduction of the provision on recall of MPs (section 64 and the amendment of the Electoral System (50% plus 1).
“Otherwise, the message being sent out there is that Malawians have no political alternative in the current crop of Opposition to the Democratic Progressive Party which is fastly leading the country to economic oblivion, and that just as it is with the DPP the only motivation which the current opposition has to ruling this country is not necessarily to serve but rather to acquire power. This is sad, and retrogressive towards sustainable development.” argues Mtambo.