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Parliament undecided on meet

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Parliament is considering the best option of mobilising members of Parliament (MPs) for the 2020/21 mid-term review meeting, initially slated for February 8.

Parliament spokesperson Ian Mwenye said Monday that they were still assessing the situation and that a decision would be made this week.

But governance experts have encouraged the National Assembly to meet virtually, considering the importance of the review.

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“Probably, this Wednesday, we should be able to come up with a decision because we are still assessing the situation,” Mwenye said.

Malawi has 193 legislators.

President Lazarus Chakwera, in one of his weekly addresses this year, directed that the physical setup meeting should not have more than 50 people.

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However, following gazetting of news Covid-19 laws, Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said the cap on gatherings would not apply to National Assembly meetings and those convened to discuss Covid-19 interventions.

Meanwhile, governance expert Rafiq Hajat has said the meeting should proceed without fail but legislators should use online platforms such as Zoom.

Hajat said there has been unbudgeted for spending at present due to Covid-19, an issue Parliament should deliberate on.

“It is not advisable for the MPs to meet looking at the current trend; we have lost two Cabinet ministers. And if Covid-19 hits the august House, we will have no one to be making laws. I would, therefore, urge Parliament to hold a virtual meeting. They can use Zoom, Google classroom, among others.

“It is crucial to meet now because there are extra expenditures that are being authorised or directed by the President for Covid-19 relief. So, it is essential for them to keep a close eye on the budget and see where it needs adjusting,” he said.

Recently, Chakwera directed the Ministry of Finance to release K17.52 billion for the public healthcare service delivery system to effectively combat Covid-19.

Similarly, Moses Mkandawire, another governance expert, said Parliament could utilise virtual meetings.

“A few members can be in the chamber while others can participate virtually. Those in the chamber should exercise extreme caution by religiously following Covid-19 precautionary measures.

“The government cannot operate without legislators making decisions through the meeting of Parliament. What they can do is to hold virtual meetings. The chamber should also be disinfected regularly and all the precautionary measures should be followed,” he said.

Dates for the meeting were announced before cases of Covid-19 -started to rise in the country.

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