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Activist damns government’s ‘double standards’

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A human rights activist, who is also Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation Executive Director, Timothy Mtambo, has described as dreadful and a clear display of double standards government’s decision to go ahead and swear in commissioners of the Malawi Human Rights Commission despite objections to the same.

In an interview with The Daily Times on Saturday, Mtambo said by going ahead with the swearing-in ceremony when issues over the commissioners had not yet been fully ironed out, government had displayed betrayal of the highest order.

Civil society leaders, who include Mtambo himself, Gift Trapence of the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) and Emma Kaliya of NGO-Gender Coordinating Network (NGO-GCN) vehemently opposed the composition of the newly sworn in commissioners.

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The activists argued that by having one female commissioner apart from Law Commissioner Grace Hiwa, the sixth cohort of the MHRC Commissioners was violating gender laws.

They further engaged the Ministry of Justice where, according to Mtambo, it was agreed that solutions must be found so that there is an improvement on gender representation.

“The whole aim of engaging the Ministry of Justice was to reach a consensus so that government should learn to respect its own gender laws. We gave dialogue a chance but the Ministry of Justice has gone ahead to swear in the commissioners even though the issues we raised have not been resolved.

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“This is the strangest government I have ever seen. They agree to do one thing; tomorrow they do just the opposite. Today they pretend to care about dialogue; tomorrow they come and slap us in the face,” charged Mtambo.

Both MHRC Executive Secretary, Grace Malera, and Hiwa admitted that even though the swearing-in ceremony had gone ahead, the concerns raised by the CSOs were legitimate and needed to be resolved.

Hiwa—who spoke on behalf of the new commissioners after the swearing-in ceremony—said one of the tasks of the new cohort will be to explore mechanisms of addressing the concerns raised by the CSOs.

But Mtambo described the thought as strange as “someone who is just appointed cannot work on how others in the same position can be brought in.” He said it is only the appointing authority that can undertake that action.

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