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Pressure mounts on Peter Mutharika

Opposition members of Parliament (MPs) have warned that they will take “appropriate measures” if President Peter Mutharika fails to appear before the National Assembly to answer questions from the lawmakers.

The warning comes after government chief legal adviser, Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale, told Friday’s edition of The Daily Times that Parliament was supposed to draft the agenda of the President answering questions from the lawmakers if it was necessary.

The AG further implied that if the MPs want the President to answer their questions, they should invite him.

But consistently citing Section 89 (3) of the Constitution, the legislators say the President is required to submit himself before Parliament without necessarily being invited by anyone as he does with the State of the Nation Address.

“Now if the President does not come to answer our questions, I don’t think it will be prudent for us to pass the National Budget,” said one MP before adding that his party would come up with its final position after a meeting by the Business and Legal Affairs committees.

In an interview on Sunday, chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, Peter Chakhwantha, said if Mutharika fails to appear before Parliament before the final consideration of the 2015/16 National Budget, “then those of us who guard our Constitution jealously won’t allow him to get away with it.”

“That will be an offence of higher moral turpitude. I am sure he won’t allow himself to be seen [that] arrogant to take this path, particularly when donors have already been calling for him to demonstrate good governance and tight fiscal disciplinary steps.

“It is important for us, as MPs, to be put on track so we can make informed choices before we pass the 2015/16 Budge t . We need to know what policies have worked or failed Malawians, what the government has done with the budget we passed in 2014 before we even pass this 2015/16,” said Chakhwantha.

He further charged that as representatives of poor Malawians, the lawmakers need a conversation with “our dear leader, the professor of constitutional law. There is nothing unconventional.”

Chakhwantha – who was the first person to bring out the Section 89 narrative in the current Parliament meeting – said all our neighbours and Western democracies have time for lawmakers to engage in such conversations with their leaders.

Meanwhile, human rights defenders Timothy Mtambo and Billy Mayaya have joined the call for Mutharika to appear before Parliament, arguing that there is no better way for the President to address Malawians’ concerns apart from answering questions from MPs.

“For instance, there is the issue of Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) which we believe has to be clarified by the President in his capacity as Malawi’s CEO. He (Mutharika) has a tendency of keeping quiet when issues of national importance are being discussed,” said Mtambo.

On his part, Mayaya said the concept of transparency and accountability will only be fully entrenched if the President appears before Parliament and answers questions from the MPs.

“The Constitution is very clear on this one and the President has no choice. Any excuse being made that implies the President may not appear before Parliament is illegal in my view,” said Mayaya.

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