Govt exert pressure on Catholic to cancel PAC meeting

Malawi government is exerting pressure on the influential Roman Catholic Church not to allow a grouping of religious leaders, Public Affairs Committee  (PAC) hold their two day meeting on the future of Malawi in the House of God, at Limbe Catholic Cathedral.

The pressure is coming after government successfully stopped Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel to cancel the booking PAC had already made and  they returned a cheque for K950 000.

After Mount Soche Hotel cancelled the booking, Limbe Cathedral offered its hall.

Kaliati: But why Limbe Cathedral?

Senior government officials and ruling DPP  top brass have been calling Limbe Cathedral Parish Priest Fr. Focus Chikweya not to allow PAC hold their meeting.

Sources both from the church and DPP have confirmed that there is pressure from government on the Catholic Church not to allow the religious body  hold the decisive meeting at their premises.

“Fr. Chikweya is receiving numerous calls from both DPP and government top officials to cancel the booking PAC has made. But Fr. Chikweya sees no problem with PAC conducting the meeting at the cathedral since the hall is hired to anybody who wants to use it,” a source said.

Another source said seeing that Fr. Chikweya has put his foot down, the officials are now calling Archbishop Tarcizio Ziyaye to plead with Fr. Chikweya to cancel the meeting.

“But if the Archbishop demands Fr. Chikweya to cancel the meeting, it will be unfortunate because the Catholic Church is a member of PAC. Dancing to the tune of government on this issue will be sad on the part of the church because it will do injustice to many Malawians who are oppressed by DPP government and require help from bodies like PAC,” one of the human rights activists said.

A government source confirmed that some officials have been assigned to plead with the Archbishop of Blantyre not to allow PAC hold the meeting which will discuss economic and political issues.

Some of those calling the church officials are Information minister Patricia Kaliati.

Government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati, a  church going Catholic herself, wondered why Limbe Cathedral is interested to host the meeting.

“But why at Limbe Cathedral? “ she wondered.

An observer said Malawians have trust in the Catholic Church and hoped that the church will not bow down to government pressure.

According to PAC executive director Robert Phiri, among those to make presentations during the meeting  include economist Mathews Chikaonda and University of Malawi lecturers Blessings Chinsinga and Edge Kanyongolo.

Presidential spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba claimed the meeting would propose “to call for a referendum”  against President Bingu wa Mutharika “failing which people will be called to a mass demonstration against the government.”

PAC has dismissed the claims as baseless and fairytale by government.

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