The above subject refers.
As Leader of Government Business in Parliament, I would like to register my grave concern over the manner in which business has been conducted in the chamber last week. Of particular concern is the way you, Madam Speaker, have shown glaring bias against the government side during debates and other related matters.
Your decisions and calls over so many matters in the House recently have left a lot to be desired, and oftentimes, I have been left wondering whether this is the new way of doing things.
A very good example is the way you handled the issue of Blantyre City South East Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Member of Parliament (MP) Honourable Sameer Suleman and Dowa East, MCP MP, Honourable Richard Chimwendo Banda. Despite the fact that the two MPs committed similar offences under parliamentary standing orders, it was clear you were only interested in disciplining Honourable Suleman against considered advice from me and a majority of members of the Business Committee of Parliament.
Were it not for the unanimous protests and calls for equal treatment from government members in the House, Honourable Chimwendo Banda would have gone scot free without being punished.
Your decision on Friday, 4th October, 2019, to disallow my motion for extension of time to allow members debate the issue of confirmation of Mr. Duncan Mwapasa as Inspector General of Police was also wrongly conceived. Even after more members, notably on the government side, voted in favour of the extension of time than those that were against it, you went ahead to overrule the majority decision.
It is a fact that you have served as an MP for many years. You are well aware that Speaker of Parliament has no mandate to overrule a decision of the House as he or she is merely a presiding official who facilitates parliamentary proceedings. Speaker of Parliament accepts and implements decisions of the members, especially when such decisions are arrived at through a voting process in the House.
In my considered opinion, your decision to curtail debate on confirmation of Mr. Duncan Mwapasa as Inspector General of Police was politically motivated and dictatorial, especially considering that there are precedents where time has been extended to allow members to discuss and conclude important business in the House. These precedents are clearly captured in the Parliamentary Gazette.
It is also on record that Parliament has even convened on a weekend, before, to transact urgent national business. A case in point is when Parliament convened on Saturday, 29th May, 2010 to host the visiting United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. You may recall this was the day when former President, late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned a gay couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were convicted of “indecent practices between males” and “unnatural offences” under the laws of Malawi and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
I am well aware that you were elected to Parliament under the auspices of MCP, and that your immediate instincts would naturally drift towards your political party. However, the Office of Speaker of Parliament demands that you lose your partisan robes and discharge your duties based on competence and above-board integrity. I am afraid to conclude that this has not been the case with you so far. Instead, what I have observed is your acute pandering to narrow political interests and sometimes even plain disregard of parliamentary ground rules. I am honestly shocked by your unbecoming conduct, Madam Speaker.
Malawi has had Speakers of Parliament before who were also sponsored by their respective political parties but were able to rise above party politics to discharge their duties with admirable integrity and impartiality.
We had Speakers such as the late Honourable Rodwell Munyenyembe from AFORD; we had the late Honourable Sam Mpasu from UDF; we had Honourable Louis Chimango; the immediate past Speaker, Honourable Richard Msowoya, both from MCP; and Honourable Henry Chimunthu Banda from DPP. None of these individuals displayed the level of partisanship and blatant arrogance in the way they discharged their speakership duties like you are doing.
What is particularly worrying is the fact that you have been Speaker of Parliament for only just a few months, and with your kind of biased leadership, I fear for the future of this Parliament, especially regarding its role in providing checks and balances in a democracy.
Madam Speaker, when you were elected to that position in June this year, the whole country celebrated the fact that we now have a female Speaker of Parliament for the first time in the history of our multiparty democracy, and indeed in the entire history of Malawi. It is disappointing, therefore, to note that the first female Speaker of Parliament has decided to dilute the very platform, which could potentially elevate the profile of Malawi Parliament including her own personal profile and throw her into the annals of history as a woman who stepped up to the plate and performed beyond expectations.
I am disappointed that you do not appear to borrow a leaf from some of the world’s great female Speakers such as Baleka Mbete of South Africa; Erzsébet Metzker Vass of Hungary; Martha Chávez of Peru; Riitta Uosukainen of Finland; and Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl of Norway, among others. These are women of valour who have transcended gender barriers to discharge their work with above average diligence and integrity in the service of their respective nations.
As Leader of Government Business in the House, I wish, at this stage, to register my disapproval over your leadership style in the august House, and state without qualms that it is toxic, heavily partisan, and recipe for chaos. As parliamentarians, we ought to be positive examples and true representatives of our constituents in the way we behave and conduct business in the House.
I pray that you change your leadership style and adopt a more inclusive approach that takes views and input from both sides of the isle in the House to ensure that we have a Legislature that represents the true aspirations of all Malawians regardless of political affiliations.
Please, Madam Speaker, accept the assurances of my highest consideration,
Kondwani Nankhumwa, MP,
LEADER OF THE HOUSE