Malawi government accused of ambushing MPs


The Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs has accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of ambushing legislators by taking advantage of loopholes in the Standing Orders to prematurely introduce bills in the House.

According to Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee, Peter Chakhwantha, the trend has resulted in questionable bills being passed into law before members of Parliament thoroughly scrutinize them.

However, leader of government business in Parliament, Francis Kasaila, has since described as unjustifiable Chakhwantha’s claims, observing that his (Chakhwantha’s) arguments are based on scenarios that happened in the House in the past which should be treated as water under the bridge.


But Chakhwantha told The Daily Times last week that Parliamentary Standing Order Number 125 (1-2) stipulates that Minister-in-Charge or Member-in- Charge shall deliver to the Clerk a soft copy of the bill and sufficient hard copies that should circulate to each member atleast 28 days before the bill is first read in the National Assembly.

“But government seems to be determined to enjoy swimming in the lake of impunity by showing sheer disregard of Parliamentary Standing Orders. They bring bills to Parliament without observing the 28- day publication rule,” he said.

Chakhwantha further argued that government goes overboard to manipulate Standing Order Number 126 (1) which stipulates that, “At any time before a government bill is first read, the Minister-in-Charge may move without notice that the number of days required by Standing Order 125 be waived on the grounds of urgency, provided that, the mover of such a motion shall, with particularity, inform the House of the reason for the urgency and the consequences to the nation of not passing the motion, and, including the time when the bill should be tabled.”


Chakhwantha, described the trend is as worrisome.

“We need to end this in order to bring sanity to the House; and to add salt to injury, government proposes to curtail debate prematurely and waives standing orders for bills to be passed without thorough scrutiny,” he lamented.

The Legal Affairs Committee Chair also disclosed that efforts to review the Standing Orders to close the gaps that government uses has met resistance from the Treasury as it has always failed to release funds for the committee’s meeting.

“The last cohort of legislators missed some grey areas during the review of the Standing Orders that was done in 2013. They adopted the Standing Orders haphazardly and left some grey areas that government is manipulating now. Government is not willing to allow our committee to meet and punch up all the grey areas and clear this mess that is happening in Parliament,” said Chakhwantha.

But government argued that the issue of curtailing parliamentary deliberations on bills prematurely comes because, as government they cannot just sit and watch while taxpayers’ money is being wasted in Parliament when members keep repeating things over and over.

“There should be value for money. If members think we can allow debate on a bill be conducted for four weeks, I am not in this business,” argued Kasaila.

He also warned The Daily Times against taking up what Chakhwantha tells the media, saying he is not the spokesperson of the House.

“I know that Chakhwantha needs newspaper coverage. Be careful with the stories that you publish because you can mislead the nation. People need good stories and not cheap drummed up stories coming from false alarm,” retorted Kasaila.

Parliament has been in the limelight for passing controversial bills that sparked outrage from the public.

In 2011, Parliament passed what was officially called the Civil Procedure (suits by or against government or public officers) Act Amendment Bill—famously known as the Injunctions Bill—which civil rights organisations viewed as a ploy by government to stop citizens from challenging the then undemocratic actions of government.

Recently, some lawyers questioned the lawmakers for passing the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act which in some places contradicts the Constitution.

Chancellor College Associate Professor of Law, Edge Kanyongolo, observed that there is a visible inconsistency between the two documents which, according to him, if left to run concurrently, prospects are there that people can go to court to challenge the constitutionality of the marriage law, arguing that prohibiting someone to get married just because he/she is under 18 contradicts the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land.

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