Speaker Hara rebuffs Government on scraping Nankhumwa’s response to Chakwera’s SONA
Speaker of the National Assembly, Catherine Gotani-Hara on Friday, February 24, 2023 threw out a request by the government Chief Whip in Parliament, Jacob Hara that she orders the scraping off from the Hansard a speech made on Monday, February 20, 2023 by the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa.
Nankhumwa’s speech was in response to the State of the Nation Address (SONA), which President Lazarus Chakwera delivered on Friday, February 17, 2023,
The government Chief Whip claimed that Nankhumwa’s speech was disrespectful and improperly reflected on the President.
But giving her verdict on the government’s demand, Speaker Hara said she could not remove the speech by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament because the government Chief Whip did not cite specific aspects of it that were in breach of Standing Order 97.
Standing Order 97 reads: “A Member shall not refer disrespectfully to the President in debate for the purpose of influencing the Assembly in its deliberations”.
“Honourable members, I took the liberty of going through the Hansard in search of a precedence where the whole speech was taken off on an account of it being in breach of Standing Order 97. However, I have found none.
“In all rulings regarding the Leader of Opposition pertaining Standing Order 97, the Speaker made a ruling on specific statements out of order and in some, the Speaker requested the Leader of Opposition to withdraw the statement made,” said Hara, adding that according to a December 17, 2017 ruling by her predecessor, Richard Msowoya, the cardinal rule on this issue is that personal reflections on the President are not permissible in the House.
“I must state that the government Chief Whip did not cite specific parts of the speech by the Leader of Opposition he felt were in breach of Standing Order 97. In the absence of specific breaches to this rule, it is not possible for me to scrap off parts of the speech let alone the entire speech by the Leader of Opposition,” Gotani-Hara ruled.
Presenting his response to the SONA last week, Nankhumwa heavily criticised the President for his insipid leadership. He said what President Chakwera delivered did not come any close to SONA.
Nankhumwa explained that SONA is a yearly tradition when the President of a nation comes to report on the status of the country whilst unveiling the government’s agenda for the coming year including proposing certain legislative measures to Parliament.
“It is clear that the speech that President Chakwera delivered in this August House lacked these key characteristics. Most likely, the President himself does not have a clue on the status of this nation. No wonder, the President failed to outline a clear agenda for his government in the coming year.
“That is not surprising, because you cannot provide a prescription without diagnosis.
“Madam Speaker, you diagnose first before prescription,” he said in his response entitled “Lies have short legs, talk is cheap”.
Nankhumwa said what Malawians witnessed on Friday is a man “who is lost and does not know what direction to take and what options are available for him as President of this country”.
“We witnessed a man, who lacks self awareness; who cannot differentiate between a State President that he is and someone aspiring to be a State President. He is a President who is still promising three years down the line.
“Instead of giving Malawians a status update of the country, is busy hallucinating what he thinks he will do. He is clearly stuck in the la-la land of speeches forgetting that he has a country to lead,” charged the Mulanje Central MP.
He said Malawians are now used to their President being absent on critical issues; of being told that their President did not know anything when serious decisions on national matters were made.
He said he has no doubt that President Chakwera does not know the pain that Malawians are going through under his leadership.
He went on to analyze the SONA based on various matters affecting the country, including the Affordable Input Program (AIP) has been a mess this season, the economy, the health sector, the cholera crisis, corruption, public infrastructure including roads, fuel and the food situation, among others.
In conclusion, he said the SONA was a compilation of platitudes and a wish list that unfortunately does not have any chance of being implemented.
“I am saying this based on the experience that Malawians have had under this government.
“When somebody says they have done something and spend hours explaining what they have done, it means they have done nothing. When you have done something, you shut up, the things you have done speak for themselves,” he said.