PAC unhappy with Pres. Banda’s handling of media accord: ‘Slowly drifting to dictatorial tendencies’

The Public Affairs Committee (PAC), an umbrella organisation for major faith communities represented in Malawi has reacted angrily to President Joyce Banda’s failure to sign the to  sign the  Table  Mountain  Declaration media accord.  

The committee says the manner in which President Banda has behaved in handling issues surrounding media freedom and governance over the last few weeks is a characteristic of retrogressive political governance.

.PAC observes in a statement sent to Nyasa Times and signed by its Publicity Secretary, Rev. Maurice Munthali, the current leadership is slowly drifting to dictatorial tendencies by failing to practice tolerance.

“The Public Affairs Committee wishes to express shock over the way the leadership of this country has behaved in issues surrounding media freedom and governance. The acts   displayed during the past weeks regarding the media are a characteristic of retrogressive political governance in Malawi.

Kasunda: Declining to sign this declaration is a   retrogressive move in our quest to entrench democracy in Malawi
Kasunda: Declining to sign this declaration is a retrogressive move in our quest to entrench democracy in Malawi

“We wish, therefore, to specifically point out that failure to sign the Table Mountain  Declaration, which  aims at abolishing insult laws, is a fundamental departure from the people’s expectations as far as basic values and norms of democracy are concerned,” states PAC in its statement.

President Banda late last month (April) declined to make commitment to sign to the repeal of insult laws, a decision that riled the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter.

Misa Malawi Chapter wanted President Banda to sign the declaration as part of the 2013 celebrations to mark World Press Freedom Day

“PAC therefore strongly urges the leadership to sign the declaration and exercise tolerance as Head of State. The leadership is sending a bad signal in area of political governance. Free press is lifeblood of democracy and rule of law. No democracy will survive without free Press.”

The organisation also observes that after the departure of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime, it expected the current government to desist from acts which the late President Bingu wa Mutharika practised.

“PAC feels that the current leadership is slowly drifting to dictatorial tendencies by failing to practise tolerance,” it says.

But speaking on Monday during a political rally she held at Utale Community Day Secondary school area in the eastern district of Balaka, President Banda hit back at Misa- Malawi and other sympathisers like PAC, saying the fact that she was a woman leader Malawians must not think she is brainless person who can just sign any document without proper consultations.

She said the reason she rejected signing the media accord was because she was not given enough time to consult legal experts on the matter.

“I was just given one week to sign. And sadly, even the Attorney General told me that he knows nothing about the Declaration. And people should know that to be a woman is not a problem and also being a female president doesn’t mean that I have no brains. I wouldn’t sign the bill on my own.  I needed to consult,” she said.

But speaking over the weekend during the commemoration of the World Press Freedom Day in Blantyre, MISA Malawi Chairperson Anthony Kasunda denied claims that the President was given short time to sign the accord, saying his body started engaging government on the matter last year.

Minister of Information and Civic Education Moses Kunkuyu has indicated that Malawi President Joyce Banda may soon sign the Declaration of Table Mountain

No politics at funerals

Further, PAC also says in the statement it is disappointed with President Banda and her Peoples Party over the treatment towards Traditional Authority Bvumbwe of Thyolo who has been ridiculed from left, right and center for his flank talk at a funeral ceremony last week.

The youthful T/A Bvumbwe crossed path with Banda and her Peoples party (PP) last week during burial ceremony of High Court Judge Joseph Manyungwa when he openly condemned PP behaviour of distributing party T-shirts at a funeral ceremony which said was degrading.

“It is the belief of PAC that funeral services must not be politicized by both government and opposition political parties. PAC calls upon the government to tread carefully in matters of political governance,” warns the body.

It, however, pledges that following its advocacy meeting held in Blantyre last week, the religious organisation will step up its advocacy interventions because “there seems to be a pattern that there is an element of intolerance in most governments once they are in power.”

“As PAC we will not spare any government if the rule of law and constitutionalism are not being respected,” says the statement.

Economic situation

On the country’s current economic situation, PAC says it is waiting to hear from government side what mitigating measures it has put in place to deal with the situation as time has now come to interrogate to what extent the mitigating measures have yielded results.

“It is observed by most Malawians that austerity measures are not being respected by government authorities. The frequent travels by the leadership have sent an unfortunate signal that the leadership is not ready to yield to some criticisms on the conduct.

“We  maintain  our  position  as  PAC   that  the  frequency  of  travels  seem  to  be  on  the higher  side. We  raised  the  issue  in  November, 2012  and  would  like  to  reiterate  the same,” concludes the statement.

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