Mutharika’s remarks on Information Bill and ultimatum ‘a scapegoat for failing Malawians’

Having listened to the Press Conference President Prof. Peter Mutharika held on Tuesday, 14th December, 2015, at State House, to brief the nation on what transpired during his recent official trips abroad, we at Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep), found it imperative to issue a reaction to some of the statements the President made. Specifically, we wish to react to the President’s remarks on Access to Information (ATI) and issuing of deadlines.

Malawian President Mutharika addressing a new conference

Malawian President Mutharika addressing a new conference

In the first place, it is important to note that the President emphatically said that his government will not pass the Access to Information (ATI) Bill to please donors but “for people to know what is happening in a democracy”.

The issue of ATI should not be misconstrued as a donor cause considering the fact that we all know that it has been with us all these years, and it is Mutharika and his team who have repeatedly assured Malawians that the Bill would be tabled in the last sitting of parliament. It is just recently when development partners have openly registered their interest to support the cause of the masses by simply reminding Mutharika to honour his pledge.

However, we strongly feel that donors and development partners have every right to reminhttp://www.nyasatimes.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpd government on the enactment of the Access to Information Bill. This is premised on the fact that Access to Information is a right which is well enshrined not only in the Constitution of Malawi, but other international human rights instruments such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, African Charter on People and Human Rights, among others, which Malawi ratified.

It is equally significant that President was able to highlight some of the “inconsistencies” in the Bill during the press conference. We, at CHRR and Cedep, however, wonder where the ‘inconsistencies’ the President highlighted during the press briefing came from. We have the draft Access to Information Bill and have never come across a clause which says Parliament shall not have the power to repeal the Access to Information law. The Access to Information Bill we have was informed by progressive model laws on access to information.

To that end, we challenge government to publish all the said “inconsistencies” for the public to appreciate them. Government should also publicise the ATI Bill, once all the so-called ‘ironing out’ and ‘aligning’ of the bill with other laws is done, before tabling it in Parliament. This would enable citizens and other stakeholders to check if there are any adulterations in the Bill. Otherwise, we are bound to believe that the President is simply buying cheap public sympathy to justify the delay in enacting the bill.

Given the culture of secrecy on how government is run, compounded a recent background of plunder of resources, Malawians can simply ill afford to have an adulterated piece of legislation that will fall short filling its democratic space. Malawians need a law that will add value to democracy.

Further, we, at CHRR and Cedep find it undemocratic for the President to take issues with ultimatums issued to him by the citizens. Statements like “anybody putting a deadline on Peter Mutharika, I will not pay attention to that” have no room in a democracy.

As an employee of the electorate, the President must be accommodative enough, fully cognizant that it is within the citizens rights to issue deadlines to their demands especially on matters that require urgent address by his leadership. Otherwise, we find the President’s aversion to deadlines as tantamount to dictatorship.

We see this as Mutharika’s calculated strategy to stifle the civic space by instilling fear in the citizens, and also impinging on the freedom of expression. This is retrogressive to democracy.

The President may wish to know that his cold attitude to ultimatums did not help matters during the NAC-gate and MSB sale saga. To date, the citizens are still in the dark on the President’s response to issues surrounding cash-stripping of NAC and MSB. Malawians are still wondering as what government will do with the proceeds of the MSB sale.

Certainly, the aforementioned issues are some of the factors that form a strong basis for the calls for enactment of Access to Information Bill. And the citizens have every right to issue a deadline on the same. In the same vein, we, at CHRR and Cedep condemn in strongest terms statements like “this nonsense must stop” by the President.

We expect the Mutharika to be presidential and fatherly in his speeches by speaking with decorum rather in demeaning tone at citizens. Does the President imply that citizens are wrong to ask for accountability from him?

Malawi is a democratic state and we don’t expect the country’s leadership to live in fear of its citizens by hiding necessary information.

                                                                                           

Timothy Mtambo                                                                         Gift Trapence

Executive Director -CHRR                                               Executive Director -CEDEP                                                                                                                                        

mtambot@chrrmw.org                                                   gtrapence@gmail.co.uk

Released on Wednesday 16th December 2015 in Lilongwe

Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :

Please share this Article if you like Email This Post Email This Post

More From the World

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
zeze
Guest

Mr so called president, watch yourself closely, or else cardiac arrest will be around the corner. History should be a good teacher to you regarding wat happened to your bro; he used to adamantly talk the way you have begun to, but what was his end result? After all, your buddy looked healthier than the way you are.

Sapitwa
Guest
He said the current bill has inconsistencies which you don’t find? You have failed to engage with him on many important matters with him widening the gap between you and him. Your ultimatums with your donor masters that dance your tune ignoring to liaise with the government are unrealistic; demanding the bill to be passed before 31 December, 2015 has become unrealistic. The next parliament sitting is in 2016 but you can’t be patient. Do you think even if it was another President would sink too low to bootlick you for your selfish demands? I for one would not. It… Read more »
Zaya
Guest
Bwana Sapitwa, APM is boxing himself into a corner. Has he forgotten that just two weeks ago he was begging donors to bail him out? With a deteriorating economy which he has clearly failed to manage on his own, is there any sense in insulting the donors he badly needs? The real loser will be known soon: It is only a very foolish person who makes threats when he has nothing to back up those threats. The President of the poorest nation on earth has to know his place… APM and DPP are not known for scrutinising bills for the… Read more »
Ojambula
Guest
It’s so sad to note that the so called president has grown wings and can speak rudely to his employers. It is very unfortunate that in the twentyth century and a democratic country still more we can have such mean leaders, leaders who are disrespectful to those that put them there. ATI bill is an important element in any democracy as it affords the citizenry an opportunity to know how accountable and transparent their government is. And the DPP government promised the nation during campaign that they will make sure that they will pass it into law once voted into… Read more »
Ernie
Guest
Malawi has never had a president so heartless like this one! The foolish part is with some Malawians who have prioritized region and party inclinations over the livelihood of the ordinary citizen. It is a shame and rebelling spirit by many that considers life of the poor masses a thing not to worry by appeasing a president who never had a heart for Malawi if his brother wasn’t a president at first!! Shame on DPP and shame on people who can’t stand out to this guy like these Himan Rights Organizations have done. If it is in your power to… Read more »
Naliyela
Guest

True!

Alfred Minjo
Guest

Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence, this NONSENSE must stop forthwith. Bvuto lanu ndichiani? Thanks heavens Kamuzu is no longer with us mukanakhala ndiwo zang’ona inu. C’on, give APM a break!

The Patriot
Guest

Gift and Timothy, you are gems in this country where courageous people like you are a scarce commodity! Keep the fire burning, Malawi will one day change. The rule of Law will triumph.

levelheaded
Guest

You say that the president is showing dictatorial powers by not abiding to your ultimatums sure? Timothy, are you not dictating as well by wanting that the president should abide to your ultimatums every time? Give this elected president time for once at least! Am always filled with anger each time I see your name on this blog dude. Eeeeiiiii.

Kenkkk
Guest
Yes we all want the ATI bill passed but we shouldn’t mislead people that once passed then every bit of information will be accessible and in public domain. Highly sensitive and classified information such as security or national intelligence etc will still be inaccessible to every Jill and jack. Even in the USA or uk not all information is released to the public. So we should know that some information cannot be released immediately and can even take years after it has been declassified that it becomes accessible to the public, especially security information. I think people need to be… Read more »
zokumva
Guest
A Mtambo ndi amzanu che Trapence, We very much know that you always make all this noise a means of finding bread for your wife and children. We do not have a problem with that. But the problem comes whenever you want everyone/ all of us to sympathize with you. Eversince you started making your noise, do you remember any time that any single Malawian benefitted from your efforts ? Why sir do you want to fool and waste our precious time with petty issues ? To hell my brother !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ifenso we have our means of surviving.
wpDiscuz

More From Nyasatimes