Friday, December 9, 2011

Press Statement From Forum for the Defence of Democracy on Occupy Parliament Malawi

Thursday 8th December, 2011

To: The Clerk Parliament
Cc: The Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Chimunthu Banda
The Law Commission
Parliament Offices,
Private Bag, B 362
Lilongwe 3


Forum for Defence Democracy (FDD) and other concerned Malawians, (Diasporas included) wish to commend and thank all Malawians for the interest, commitment and inspiration demonstrated towards the OCCUPY PARLIAMENT AGENDA. Sadly and prematurely, it is put on record that the Executive influence over Parliament nullified the opportunity that ordinary citizens intended to pursue to redress the prevailing status quo.

FDD believes that “power” in a democracy ultimately resides with the populace (ordinary citizens) in accordance with the supreme law of the land. Furthermore, our history is full of examples of an inspired citizenry involved in social movements that has achieved social and political change from 1994 to this date. It is a fact that social movements are, and have been instrumental in raising concerns and urging governments in good democracies, to change and respect the will of the people.

It is emphasized that the “OCCUPY PARLIAMENT AGENDA” as an expression platform was not meant and intended for Parliamentary invasion, or toppling of the current administration regime, as reports would have it. The objective was to voice out the conduct of business in the August House. Furthermore, this was to remind our honourable legislators their legitimate role of representing their constituents.

FDD as a grouping stands on principles of good governance, respect of rule of law and human rights and is a platform for enabling citizens to challenge the prevailing atmosphere that is unfavourable to the majority of Malawians. This platform is also ultimately there to ensure that the citizenry is active in the decision-making processes that affect them especially in this period when the normal channels of their political participation are deliberately frustrated by Executive influence over Parliament. This is clearly evidenced in the District Commissioners and the Speaker’s refusal to issue permission for active citizens to demonstrate peacefully as a constitutional right, In addition, the deployment of heavy police presence and tracking leaders or organizers of the platform testifies to the fact that we live in a country where human rights are not being respected and promoted.

FDD instituted the OCCUPY PARLIAMENT AGENDA to mobilize the citizens and public opinion to challenge power holders and encourage the society to effectively participate and adhere to national values and responsibilities, to redress social problems that affect all of us now on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the platform’s plans were thwarted by the Executive influence over Parliamentary business which was exhibited in the Speaker’s and the District Commissioners unwillingness in the issuance of a written permission as it is required by law, (Police Act, section 103) failure to provide this permission meant that the grassroots are unable to exert their discontent and demand change in the way their Parliamentarians behave.

The OCCUPY PARLIAMENT AGENDA remains to instil in the minds of ordinary Malawians their constitutional responsibility of expressing through (public opinion) and expressing their will through other legal means. It therefore remains a platform for pressing social change and above all holding legislators accountable to the fundamental principles of democracy.

The following concerns still need redress and will remain the agenda of OCCUPY PARLIAMENT.

The genuine problems experienced amongst other things are:- acute fuel shortages, forex scarcity, unavailability of hospital drugs, high cost of living, job scarcity, high water and electricity tariffs (black outs and scarcity), civil servants salaries that remain meagre, review of wages and packages for hospitality industry, restaurants, bars and other public places which also remain pathetic. Malawians are further vexed that in the midst of this economic woes, their elected servants would even consider raising their own salaries.

The list of concerns continues with the problems of Air Malawi, the only flag carrier and pride of Malawi and Macra’s insistence on buying and installing “the popular spying machine” are amongst the top priorities for Parliamentarians to address among the issues affecting this country.

However, despite the refusal by the authority entrusted to provide permission for the OCCUPY PARLIAMENT AGENDA, it is noteworthy that the agenda has made an impact especially on the recent announcement that oppressive laws including Injunction Bill, the infamous Police Act, (s. 46) which have been on the priority of the Government’s political agenda, have now been referred through the President directive, to the Law Commission for review. Such laws were amongst the issues promoting human rights abuses. As we applaud this move by the Head of State. Having noted this, we also call upon the Law Commission to work independently as mandated by s.136 of the Constitution of Malawi. Let us remind our Legislators that when enacting laws they shall reflect in its deliberations the interests of all people of Malawi. Therefore, it is upon this premise that FDD together with church leaders, and all ordinary Malawians will continue keeping an eye on their commitment to the interests and welfare of all Malawians as guaranteed in the Constitution of Malawi.

FDD Co-ordinator – Central Region