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Let this Parliament be a different one

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Parliament started meeting Monday afternoon in Lilongwe at a time the country is going through a myriad of problems, ranging from economic, political to social challenges.

As the government cannot on its own address all the problems, Malawians are also looking up to their representatives in the Nation Assembly to bring to the table ideas and solutions that could help restore some normality in their daily lives.

The members of Parliament supposedly live with the people on the ground and are expected to be better placed to bring to the fore the experiences their constituents are going through in the communities and suggest viable ways of tackling the problems.

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Parliament runs on tax-payers’ money and it is really expensive for the people to fund the meeting of Parliament. But the expenditure could be justifiable if it turns out to be beneficial. At the same time, it will be a drain on public resources if the House goes business as usual where adults behave like children, fighting over petty political matters.

Malawians expect their MPs to use the august House to discuss problems affecting their lives and come up with resolutions of improving things for people’s wellbeing in homes and communities.

They expect their MPs to behave maturely and responsibly and conduct themselves in a dignified manner while in the House. It pains to see your MP spending valuable time in the House talking nonsense and wasting time on issues that only benefit his or her political masters and pockets.

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We have seen many times before in the House how MPs have put forward matters for their own benefit at the expense of national issues with a large bearing on their constituents. Our MPs always unite and speak with one voice when discussing their salaries and benefits.

There are actually cases where MPs have threatened to shoot down the budget and other government bills unless their salaries or indeed other personal benefits are increased.

MPs have also at times used the House to fight political battles by deliberately frustrating important bills just to show their political muscle and force the government into submission.

Then there is the issue of advance pocketing of daily attendance allowances and absenteeism in the House. Apparently, MPs are paid their allowances in advance yet there is no system of recovering the allowances where one fails to show up in the House after already receiving allowances for the day.

The same is the case with government ministers and deputy ministers who only show up sporadically and are at times not available when required to respond to questions related to their line ministries in the House.

Our MPs and ministers need to know that time for such misbehaviour is over. Malawians are watching and they now expect Parliament as an institution to become accountable.

For a start, management at Parliament must find a way of always making sure that daily attendance allowances are paid only when an MP attends proceeding, for that day. Where an MP has already collected per diem but fails to show up, there must be a way of recovering such money from their next tranche of allowances.

MPs should also be stopped from determining their own salaries and perks. Where in the world is an employee left to decide his own salary, even where his or her employer does not want to pay them a particular amount of money? As long as our MPs are left to dictate their own salaries, they will continue milking the country irresponsibly while offering the country a raw deal when it comes to delivery.

And Parliament must never be used as a political battlefield. Malawi already provides enough space for political showdowns but Parliament is not one of them.

Political fights should remain at rallies and even at the polls during elections but not in Parliament. Parliament is for deliberation of matters of national importance. It is a National Assembly where representatives of the people bring issues from their respective constituents for discussion and finding of solutions at national level.

No voter wants to see their MP in Parliament fighting or serving their political interests. They want their MP to discuss and approve laws and policies that would contribute to the development of the country.

They also expect their MPs to bring to the attention of the government problems affecting them in the constituencies. Anything less than that is unacceptable and a betrayal of the trust and confidence placed in the legislators by their constituents.

Once again, Malawians are watching. #ThumbsUp in advance to all our MPs and ministers for being productive and serving the interests of Malawi as a nation and ordinary people in villages and towns in the august House.

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