BY FAITH KAMTAMBE
Civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights defenders Thursday presented a petition to Parliament demanding the reversal of a decision to raise sitting and upkeep allowances for Members of Parliament (MPs) from K60,000 to K80,000 a day.
The CSOs are also lobbying for the parliamentarians to start receiving their allowances per hour and not per day as is the case, stressing that most MPs nowadays focus on self-service other than doing a service to the public.
There was drama, however, when the civil society leaders were not welcomed by any MP as their initial contact, who is Chitipa South MP, Welani Chilenga, declined to receive the petition claiming it was hitting at the MPs and he could not be the CSOs’ messenger for the bad news therein.
Chilenga did not show up at the Parliament gates to meet the CSO leaders.
It was only after a good two and half hours that Kasungu West MP, who also sits as Welfare Parliamentary Committee Chairperson, Alex Major, showed up to receive the petition.
Among the seven demands in the petition is a call to introduce biometric clocking in gadgets at Parliament to record actual entry and exit times of the MPs and ensure that it is directly connected to the payroll system.
They further demand government must reverse its decision to give in to the demands of the MPs on the allowance increment.
“Instead of increasing their allowances, the MPs must consider to increase the minimum wage to K2,500 per day so that our people can be moved out of poverty if at all they are serving the interest of the people of Malawi,” reads in part the petition.
Human Rights Consultative Committee Chairperson, who also chairs the group of eight CSOs, Robert Mkwezalamba, said they expect their demands to be answered before Parliament rises today.
“In the current 60-day sitting, the MPs have received K3.6 million and if the allowances are increased, they will be getting K4.8 million each. For 193 MPs, it means spending an additional K231.6 million in allowances in one sitting alone. This amount could build 20 school blocks,” Mkwezalamba said.
Major, however, declined to comment on the issues raised by the CSOs in the petition stressing that his job is only to receive the document and deliver it to the House.
“I am not the authority. I have just come here to get the document and present it to the Speaker and I can assure you that, as a House, we will look at the issues presented objectively. I cannot make an individual statement here when I represent Parliament,” Major said.
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