Phoya takes on Bingu govt over bad laws

As the government continues to be criticized over formulation of draconian laws, including that of section 46 of the penal code that empowers a cabinet minister to ban any publication deemed to be “not in public interest”, former Justice Minister, Henry Duncan Phoya (HDP) said in parliament that  the review of unpopular laws rests in the hands of the executive and not solely on legislature.

Other laws that have ignited a public outcry are the Local Courts Act, which empowered traditional leaders to administer justice beyond their jurisdiction; the Injunctions Bill which restrains Malawians from getting temporary reprieve from courts against government; and the Local Government Act, which empowers the President to call for Local Government Elections “in consultation with the Malawi Electoral Commission”.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Phoya  legislator for Blantyre Rural East, said that it was the duty of the executive to formulate laws then Parliament to approve or not.

Phoya: Up to government to repeal laws

He was reacting to Leader of the House, George Chaponda’s statement that the powers to repeal the laws were vested in individual MPs who could bring a private members bill and not the executive arm of government alone.

Chaponda’s remarks followed MP for Lilongwe South-east Willard Gwengwe’s demand that the Minister of Information should  repeal Section 46 to ensure true media freedom in the country.

But contributing to the debate,  Phoya retorted that the executive was misleading the nation that the executive was not responsible once laws are passed but the legislature.

“It is completely wrong to say only the legislature is responsible for repealing laws. It is up to government to repeal laws by bringing them before Parliament. Parliament cannot just bring laws to the House for repealing,” he said.

On arrival from a month-long purported leave in South-east Asia, President Bingu wa Mutharika denied responsibility on repealing laws, a condition contained in the July 20 petition at the United Nations led dialogue between government and civil society.

Chaponda concurred with his President’s assertion, arguing that while government was fully entitled to bring bills before Parliament, there was nothing to stop any MP from bringing a private members bill for debate.

This was in contradiction to what government chief whip Simon Vuwa Kaunda told the media last week that government would have to carry out stakeholders consultations before reintroducing laws for repeal before Parliament.

Concurring with Phoya, Karonga Nyungwe parliamentarian Khwauli Msiska observed that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) abuses its majority in Parliament to pass bad laws and that private member bills are a non-starter.

“I personally have made such a move, presenting Private members motions before Parliament leadership that don’t se the light of the day. Not a single motion has been allowed because each private members day (Thursday) is dominated by government,” Msiska said.

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