Let be parliament of the people, says CCJP

Malawi’s Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has issued a statement ahead of the November sitting of Parliament where it appeals that the House must amend and repeal “archaic laws that Parliament has proceeded to table and pass in spite of loud calls for further consultation on one hand and outright dropping of such bills on the other”.
In the statement entitled “Let be the Parliament of the People and for the People” and published on Monday, November 7, 2011, CCJP says it does not want to close its eyes and ears to the fact that the current parliament has passed a number of legislations necessary and important to the general well-being of Malawi and Malawians.

Parliament starts sitting from November 14

It says most of these laws include financial bills that will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of Malawians.

“But these have been eclipsed by a number of archaic laws that Parliament has proceeded to table and pass in spite of loud calls for further consultation on one hand and outright dropping of such bills on the other,” the CCJP observes.

It says these include the amendment of Section 46 of the Penal Code to empower a single cabinet minister to ban any publication perceived not in public interest; Local Courts Bill, which many fear would result in the reinstatement of kangaroo justice that existed during the one party era largely for political persecution of opponents; and the Injunctions Bill, which restrains granting of an injunction against government or a public officer in the absence of state representation.

“Much to chagrin of many, this (Injunctions Bill) was passed and is now law after the President also assented to it,” reads the statement.

Another one under contention in the CCJP statement is the Police Bill, which, part from “beneficial parts within it, is prone to abuse particularly for allowing a police officer search private property without court warrant”.

On the controversial Local Elections Bill, CCJP observes that previously, there was clear timing as to when local elections can be held. However, it says since 2009, the President in consultation with the Malawi Electoral Commission can decide when to hold local elections.

“What has happened with this change or amendment is that the local elections have been left at the mercy of politicians and not in the hands of the laws of this land. This is why local elections have been deferred, postponed and looks like abandoned in the long run,” reads the statement.

CCJP says the November sitting is an opportune time for the legislation to be brought back to its original design. It says individuals should not decide when to hold local polls but laws of the land must define time precisely.

CCJP says while the Malawi Parliament saw wisdom in tabling and passing legislation that has little bearing on the common good, several other bills with direct positive fruits to the general wellbeing continue together dust.

“Such include but not limited to Tenancy and Labour Bill and Education Bill. These are laws that would contribute to social, economic and political development of this country,” says CCJP in the statement, observing that it is a ‘puzzle’ that government has failed to enact the Education Bill whose review was completed two years ago.

Wonders CCJP: “What is it that is in the Bill that makes government jittery to pass it when other Bills with lesser impact on the populace have been passed overnight? Is it not retrogressive that as a nation, we are getting pride in using an archaic Education Law in the 21st Century?

On another note, CCJP says the November sitting of Parliament is also an opportune time for civil society organizations (CSOs) to effectively and pro-actively influence parliamentary business.

“We acknowledge the role of the office of the Hon. Speaker of Parliament in publicizing the November sitting of Parliament. This has given adequate time and space for Faith based Organizations and Civil Society Organizations to reflect, plan and contribute to parliamentary business,” CCJP says, observing, however, that such prior notice may not have yielded the intended results because “people have tended to be more reactive than proactive”.

CCJP was established at the dawn of multiparty democracy in 1992 as a social justice and advocacy arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi.


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