Malawi’s new Attorney General says govt. will act on constitutional review pleas

The newly appointed Attorney General (AG) Anthony Kamanga, SC, says the Joyce Banda administration is committed to supporting and taking the work of the Malawi Law Commission seriously and act on peoples’ wishes.

Kamanga, the former Solicitor General, emphasised that the Joyce Banda administration “remains committed to supporting and taking forward the work of the Law Commission.”

The government chief legal advisor also said that there were “quite a few contentious recommendations” in the report on the review of the constitution, in particular those relating to Section 65, the recall provision, the clarification of presidential terms and the president’s right to appoint the vice-president.

According to Kamanga, these issues largely explained “why things did not proceed” under the previous administration.

Kamanga: New Attorney General

“The challenge we’ve had should be obvious to most of you”, he said. “But the new government is committed to respect the wishes of its people.”

According to Kamanga, even though there will always be instances where government holds a different view on individual law reform programmes and may refer recommendations back to the Law Commission.

Kamanga also confirmed that that the government was “revisiting the report of the Law Commission on the revision of the constitution.”

The new Attoney General who was a Law Commissioner and a member of the constititutional review commission in 2006 and 2007 was responding to Malawi’s Chief Law Reform Officer Dr. Janet Chikaya Banda’s plea for the new administration to “fish out” the Law Commission’s report on the 2004-6 constitutional review and “move forward the recommendations”

Kamanga said government is taking the chief law reforms plea seriously. “We will act swiftly, we will implement what the people want,” he said.

Malawi’s chief law Reform officer, Dr. Janet Chikaya-Banda has been pestering the Joyce Banda administration to “fish out” the country’s Law Commission’s report of 2004 to 2006’s constitutional review and move forward with its recommendations.

Chikaya-Banda recently made another call in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe at Sunbird Capital Hotel during the launch of her publication, titled Duty of care: Constitutional and law reform in Malawi after launching the publication in London last month.

“I strongly recommend the Malawi government to critically look into the commendations and proposals that were made by the Law commission in its report and findings that was conducted between 2004 and 2006 on the constitutional review and progressively steps forward with it,” advocated Chikaya-Banda.

The event was organised by Africa Research Institute (ARI) a London-based independent think-tank which funded her publication on Duty of Care: Constitutional and Law reform in Malawi.

As chief law reform officer, Dr. Chikaya-Banda was responsible for compiling the Law Commission’s report which was submitted to the Ministry of Justice in 2007.

However, Nyasa Times understands that since then the draft bills accompanying the report have never been put before parliament and according to Chikaya-Banda “They have been buried.”

Said Dr. Chikaya-Banda: “We are still waiting for government to heed the views and express wishes of the people of  Malawi who  participated in the nationwide constitutional consultation.”

The Chief Law Commissioner  who recently was in London to present a paper on Malawi law reforms at the Africa Research Institute added that the inaction contravenes the duty of care imposed on the executive by the constitution and chiefly “cripples the effective functioning of parliament and the systematic development of the law.

In his presentation Supreme of Appeal Court Judge, Justice Edward Twea, SC, focused on the role of the judiciary in law reform. He stressed the importance of systematic, continuous law reform and described the Law Commission as “an important independent voice”, especially given “the influence of the executive over the legislature” in Malawi.

Justice Twea said the inclusion of judicial officers in the Commission’s law reform programmes was an invaluable to the process adding that there can be complications that can arise when law reform flies in the face of traditions and traditional values which have popular support when there are contradictions between the constitution and other laws.

In his remarks the director of Africa Research Institute, Edward Paice described the issue of constitutional reform as “a very emotive topic in Malawi.

Paice pointed out that during the past 18 months the constitution and law reform have been to the fore in public debate, in the press and in pronouncements of the Public Affairs Committee.

Said Paice: “In this context,  I hope that the dialogue about constitutional reform would continue in Malawi and that the government will act swiftly on the matter to uphold the rule of law.”

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