DPP has no ‘moral’ right on Section 65

While opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is hatching ambitious plans to ask National Assembly Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda to invoke the controversial Section 65 which bars legislators from crossing the floor, some organizations and legal experts have questioned the moral basis of the move .

This come hot on the heels of a recent DPP caucus in Lilongwe which unanimously agreed to ask Speaker of Parliament to declare vacant seats of its lawmakers who have jumped ship to join the ruling People’s Party of President Joyce Banda.

But commenting on the development, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) says the DPP should be the last political organization on the land to advocate for implementation of the section.

Kasambara: No need to worry with DPP threats

PAC’s Publicity Secretary Rev. Maurice Munthali has since described the DPP’s decision as hypocritical and an insult to Malawians.

“DPP benefited enormous from non implementation of the section  from 2004 to 2009 despite calls from various groups ranging from civil society to opposition parties for the need to respect the constitution but look at what happened at the end of day? The party never respected  the constitution when it was in power,” Munthali told a local radio in an interview.

He added: “Now they are in opposition they want everybody to sympathize with them? I don’t think that will happen because every Malawian is now busy helping the incumbent head of state Mrs. Banda to clean up the garbage the DPP left meaning issue of section 65 is not a priority at the moment.”

On his part, Zomba based law professor Edge Kanyongolo while concurring with PAC’s assertions was hastened to point out that the DPP still has legal right to push for execution of the section in question.

Said Kanyongolo: “I totally agree with PAC’s assertions on the matter because during its time the DPP indeed was untouchable on the issue when it came into parliament, the party defied   supreme court of appeal’s ruling that granted section 65 valid but the former president and his party never listened.

“However, despite such previous arrogance, the DPP still has legal right to ask the speaker to invoke section 65 because my view is that the party is being guided not by matter of principle but rather  political exigence.”

Alternatively, Kanyongolo added, the parliament could do Malawians justice if the section is either amended or repealed,  arguing, “history has taught us that debate on the matter is costly to the country as well as time wasting so if its not necessary just get rid of it and we move forward.”

Meanwhile, government through its chief legal advisor and Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara has since said it is not moved with   the DPP threats.

Kasambara told Nyasa Times, government cannot panic on what he called empty threats coming from disgruntled politicians who have no interest of Malawians at heart.

“AS government legal advisor, I have not received any information from speaker of parliament on the matter so my take is that the issue is political and my office does not deal with political matters. All I know, however, is that the issue is coming from a political grouping that never wished the country well as evidenced by how it performed the past three years,” said Kasambara.

Section 65 debate dogged late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s first term of office and it proved costly to Malawians as the former government was busy fighting the issue in court while its citizens enjoyed the embarrassing status of being among the bottom five of the poorest in the world according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) human development index.

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