The Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Mining over the weekend expressed shock over the missing Forest Act at the National Assembly after it was enacted last year.
Parliament last year passed the 2019 Forest Act which, among others, proposes for stiffer punishment to people found exploiting the precious natural resource of the country.
And as a matter of procedure, the Act was, after being passed in parliament, supposed to be sent to the President for him to assent to it so that it becomes law.
Speaking in Zomba during an interactive meeting with officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Mining, Chairperson for the committee, Halima Daudi said it was surprising that the parliament secretariat failed to send the Act to the president and that it even disappeared.
Daudi said failure to send the Act to the President is a clear indication of how less serious some people are with regards to issues of natural resources.
“Let us not forget that without natural resources, we are nothing. It is, therefore, very unfortunate that parliament secretariat forgot to send this important Act and instead, it sent other political Acts,” Daudi said.
Daudi assured the committee they would do everything possible to ensure the Act is sent to the president as soon as possible.
“This Act is very important if we are to protect the natural resources and win the fight against their exploitation. We will soon engage our secretariat to expedite this process,” she said.
Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Mining, Welani Chilenga confirmed of failure by parliament secretariat to send the Act and that indeed it was missing in the files.
Chilenga said when the ministry enquired why the Act was not being assented to after it was passed alongside other Acts, it was discovered that it was not sent to the president and that it was nowhere to be seen.
“If there is an Act that was supposed to be sent to the president as quickly as possible; then it is this Forest Act other than those that were sent for the president to assent to. We were, as Ministry, so shocked to learn that the Act was left out and even buried at the secretariat.
“As a country, we are facing a lot of challenges in managing our natural resources due to the current laws that are outdated. The new Forest Act would largely improve our performance in as far as managing natural resources is concerned,” said Chilenga.
Chilenga said the ministry will continue pushing for the Act to be sent to the president for his signature.
“Of course, the parliament secretariat told us that it has started working on the processes to ensure the Act is sent to the president, but we will keep on pushing,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from the National Assembly secretariat.
Among others, the Forest Act proposes for seizure of a vehicle found carrying prohibited forest products or any natural resources and a ten year imprisonment sentence to the driver or anyone found in the business.
Currently, the highest penalty one has to pay for being in the illegal business of natural resources is only K20,000.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :