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PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE FAULTED

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One of the social commentators in the country has warned that the Public Affairs Committee’s (Pac) decision to cancel the planned nationwide demonstrations may result in the waning of trust that people have in the quasi-religious body.
Pac officials met in Lilongwe on Monday, where the agreement to cancel the demonstrations was made.
Reacting to the postponement, Mzuzu-based Emily Mkamanga accused Pac of making a wrong decision.
Mkamanga said the protests would have been a warning to the government on several concerns that Malawians have.
“This will disappoint a lot of people and most might say Pac is not serious about it. People were geared up. Just imagine, even the Catholics had to postpone their meetings tomorrow [today] just because they wanted to participate in this [demonstration],” Mkamanga.
She said the government cannot be trusted as it has just been pressurised and has even changed some of the bills which Parliament has to sort out.
“So, here, too we might think there is a commitment but they can decide that Parliament should rise in two, three days before these bills are passed,” she said.
Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) Executive Director, Gift Trapence, said Pac should be cautious on the cancellation.
Trapence said Pac should be aware that there were expectations among Malawians and they were ready to demonstrate not only on Electoral Reforms [Amendment] Bills but other governance and service delivery issues.
He mentioned energy, water, unemployment and corruption as some of the socio-economic challenges that Malawians were geared to demonstrate against.
“The cancellation should not defeat the purpose. If that can happen, Pac will be irrelevant,” Trapence said.
But Chancellor College political commentator, Ernest Thindwa, said the purpose was to force government table the bills and now that the bills are in Parliament, Pac is right to call off the demonstrations.
“I want to believe the threat of demonstrations has compelled the government to table the bills. I don’t think the pressure of boycotting Parliament by the opposition alone would have compelled the government to table the bills,” Thindwa said.
Pac, however, said it has made the decisions to cancel the marches and monitor the conduct of Parliament as the Executive has done its part though not fully.
In a message that was specifically targeting all faith-based institutions, mother bodies and all that were ready to participate in the marches, Pac emphasised on attempts to clear the mist on the cancellation.
In a statement that Pac chairperson, Reverend Felix Chingota, read out to journalists yesterday, the committee attributes the cancellation to the circulation of five out of six bills in Parliament.
“Although our wish was to see all the six reforms bills presented as a package, we are equally gratified by the current development. This is already a plus, and achievement on the part of Pac,” Chingota said.
He said the key request to the Executive arm of government was to see the bills tabled in Parliament and Pac would like to give Members of Parliament a chance to process and debate the bills.
“Generally, it will be recalled that the peaceful marches were targeted at the Executive to present the bills to Parliament. Now that they have done so, we did not find any wisdom in demonstrating against Parliament since the House has just received the bills,” he said.
The demonstrations, which were to be held under the theme ‘Reclaiming Our Destiny’ received support from several quarters including religious bodies and human rights organisation

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