I am not against changing parliament’s dress code – Speaker

Speaker of Malawi’s National Assembly, Richard Msowoya, has said he is not opposed to changing parliament’s dress code, as long as such change is a reflection of what the people of Malawi want.

Msowoya flanked by Chisusu (left) and Clement Makuwa of the Young People for democracy during the FEI awards presentation

Msowoya was speaking when he presided over 2017 Young People for Democracy Awards organized by Free Expression Institute (FEI) in the capital Lilongwe.

FEI Board Member, Godfry Chisusu, challenged parliament to rethink its western style dress code and consider a less formal one.

“While a rigid, colonial dress code of suit and tie is important for maintaining decorum and respectability of parliament and parliamentarians, a relaxed and less formal dressing such as the “Mandela shirt” popularized by former iconic South African President, Nelson Mandela would also have its own advantages, including making parliamentarians less intimidating and more approachable,” Chisusu said, drawing a smile from the attentive speaker.

The Speaker gave an instant response when he took to the podium to give his address, saying he felt there were strong arguments on both sides for and against a formal dress code.

“I and the National Assembly would not be opposed to people debating such matters and if a consensus is reached either way, that is what would guide parliament, moving forward,” he said.

He, however, warned that if it is traditional attire that people want they need to understand that some traditional regalia could be potential weapons which may not be helpful when debate in parliament gets hot.

Msowoya, did not, however, comment on Chisusu’s assertion that use of English language in parliament was also an impediment to the realization of free speech.

Said Chisusu: “having Standing Orders that prescribe the use of the English language in both Parliament and local councils even when we have evidence of parliamentarians and councilors struggling to express themselves English does not seem to help promote freedom of speech or indeed democracy.”

Every year, the Free Expression Institute organized an essay writing competition which culminates in the winner receiving the Young People for Democracy Award, presented on July 20 as a symbolic gesture to mark commemoration of events of July 20, 2011 when at least 20 Malawians were killed in the aftermath of nationwide demonstrations.

The Speaker also said he was honoured to the one presenting the 2017 Young People for Democracy Award saying one of the reasons he accepted to preside over the ceremony was because it was about recognizing merit.

“I am a strong believer and supporter of rewarding merit. For me, Merit, above all other yard sticks, is a sure way of achieving greatness at individual level, in a community, in a country and in the whole world,” Msowoya said.

The topic for this year’s essay competition was: How should Malawi sustainably preserve the country’s cultural heritage?

28 year old Nebbart Mtika emerged winner out of 614 entries and received a trophy and MK200,000 prize. Positions two to five were taken by Edward Katukana, Comfort Mchali, Tawonga Msowoya and Frank Phiri respectively.

The rest of the top ten contestants were Praise Kaimfa, Don Sidira Munthali, Edward Lwanja, Wonderful Mwangonde and Precious Bondo Mipando.

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