The government of Malawi has trashed media reports that President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika’s decision to snub parliamentary summon is a flout of the Constitution which he swore to uphold, saying the reports are untrue and misleading.
Opposition MPs led by Dr. Lazaurs Chakwera, Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua and Harry Mkandawire wrote the President through the office of the Speaker Richard Msowoya, asking the President to appear before parliament to answer some of the questions as per constitutional requirements.
But in his announcement on Monday afternoon, Msowoya informed the house that Mutharika will not personally be available for the house instead he has delegated line of Ministers to answer some of the questions on his behalf.
The announcements attracted countrywide condemnation as written in some of the two local daily papers of Daily Times and the Nation Newspapers dated 15, 2016 under the titles… “Mutharika dodges MPs’ questions” …; and, “Mutharika refuses to answer MPs’ questions….”, respectively.
The papers accused President Mutharika of flouting the Constitution which he swore to uphold.
In response, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said there is not flouting of Constitution by the President in delegating his Ministers to answers questions on behalf of the President.
Tembenu said the Constitution is clear that there are certain specific powers and functions which can only be exercised by the President alone, it does not restrict the President from delegating some of those functions if he chooses to do so.
“The President was, therefore, perfectly entitled to delegate to the said Ministers, and in doing so, he was acting within law. Indeed, it is inconceivable to expect that the President would be able to deal with each and every issue or question personally. Hence, delegation is a necessary part of his Constitutional functions because it affords him the opportunity to deal with other equally important matters of State.
“With respect to the Parliamentary questions, the Business Committee fully appreciated that the President could delegate his functions. Standing Orders 70 and 201 of the National Assembly regulate the manner in which questions to the President are handled. Except for questions under Section 89(3) (c) of the Constitution, Standing Order 201 leaves open the possibility for the President to delegate,” said Tembenu.
Added Tembenu : Government is, therefore, appealing to all those who comment on matters of public interest to do so in a manner that is fair and accurate. Quoting one provision of the Constitution in isolation from the other similar provisions has the potential to mislead the masses.
“Fairness demands that those who have the podium to comment on public issues must do so in a manner which is balanced. To interpret the Speaker’s announcement that the President had delegated the Ministers to answer his questions as a refusal by the President is grossly misleading.”
President Mutharika was expected to be in Parliament today.