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Chaos in Parliament over HRDC presence

Parliament was suspended early Tuesday as Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Timothy Mtambo and his deputy Gift Trapence made their appearance in the august House’s visitors’ gallery.

Deputy leader of the House, Martha Chanjo Mhone, moved a motion that deliberations be suspended for the business committee to meet and discuss security issues of the House.

“Yes, I know I am a Minister and deputy leader of the House but I am also a Member of Parliament. I want you Madam Speaker to tell this House what is the interest of HRDC. Why are we allowing HRDC as if they are our electorates to do this? Madam Speaker, make sure you provide security to all of us,” she said.

When the business committee went to meet, Mtambo, in an interview, said they could not leave Parliament as they wanted to monitor how the legislators would tackle the Electoral Reform Bills.

“No one is restrained to visit the visitors’ gallery, so we cannot leave,” he said.

Mtambo and Trapence then left Parliament Building just minutes before the business committee finished its discussions.

Reports indicate that Mtambo and his deputy were advised to do so to allow the House to deliberate the Bills.

Mtambo said they accepted to leave the House but they will return today for the planned vigils.

“We have decided to leave on our own because we have other equally important things to do. Now we want to go and mobilise people to come for the vigils. What the MPs are doing is childish,” he said.

Later, Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani-Hara, came and announced that the House had resolved the matter and HRDC was no longer in the House as such the proceedings should continue.

The development did not please some government legislators who started chanting songs that disrupted proceedings in the process and the House was then adjourned to today 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Earlier, Minister of Homeland Security, Nicholas Dausi, told Parliament that his ministry would not provide security to Members of Parliament when HRDC holds vigils at Parliament premises to force the legislators to discuss the 50%+1 Bill in the House.

The vigil, which was scheduled for today, has since been shifted to Friday.

“My ministry will not be able to provide security to all the 193 Members of Parliament during the HRDC vigils which are mostly characterised by destruction of property,” he said.

MPs from the government benches accused HRDC of interfering in the work of the legislators.

Gotani-Hara assured the legislators that her office would ensure that the legislators were protected.

“I was hoping that the Minister of Homeland Security is, indeed, our authority in terms of security and now getting worried that he cannot protect us but as the office of Speaker, we will ensure that security for the members is available,” she said.

During the press briefing in Lilongwe, Mtambo called on all Malawians to hold a vigil at Parliament as a way to ensure that the august House considers and passes the electoral reforms.

“In 2018, we were slapped in the face by the MPs when they rejected the reforms. It was rejected because of tribalists that are selfish and they want to manipulate Malawians. We want the 50%+1 law so that the majority should be given a chance to legitimise the presidency,” Mtambo said.

He said they were reliably informed that some MPs plan to sabotage the bills, a development which HRDC will not allow.

HRDC has also said Public Appointments of Committee and President, Peter Mutharika, should act swiftly on Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) commissioners’ inquiry to usher in a new team ahead of the fresh presidential elections as ordered by the Constitutional Court.

“We will make sure that justice prevails because the issue of competence about Mec is non-negotiable. It is not debatable. When you look at the judgement, it is clear that the commissioners are incompetent,” he said.

Last week, HRDC shut down Mec offices in all regions claiming they had automatically fired the commission and they will ask parliament this week to fasten the process of having new commissioners in place ahead of the fresh presidential election.

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