The Malawi Law Society (MLS) says Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo cannot defend himself in the media against allegations of being part of the plot that wanted to contravene the constitution by allegedly planning to swear in Peter Mutharika as president ahead after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.
MLS Honourary Secretary Bright Theu said as a judicial officer like the Chief Justice cannot make his case heard through the media because it is against the ethics of the profession.
Theu said despite being a public servant the Chief Justice cannot respond to the media in a manner, cabinet ministers or other government officials do because there is a proper forum where he can issue a response.
“The Chief Justice, just like other judicial officers, cannot defend himself against the grave allegations through the media. It is not acceptable practice for judicial officers to do that. While acknowledging that any person has got the right to hold and express their opinion on public matters and public officers, I am afraid any continued uninformed remarks especially with regard to the Chief Justice puts him in a very awkward position as he may be tried in the media on any allegations without him being heard through that channel. The Chief Justice’s office and judicial officers cannot be handled in identical manner that we handle other public officers such as ministers who are politicians and have direct access to the media any time and anyhow,” he said.
He further said as a society, they met to discuss the events that surrounded the transition of power after the death of Mutharika but revealed that they did not tackle the issue of the Chief Justice being involved in the ploy separately.
“As Malawi Law Society, we noted not only the grave allegation made against the Chief Justice, but also the various other versions of the events during the transition following the death of the former President Bingu wa Mutharika. We discussed the issue in that holistic way without necessarily focusing on the Chief Justice in particular as it is not our desire to participate in profiling the Chief Justice in any way. We came up with resolutions that we will communicate with the relevant authorities who can formally handle the matters surrounding the transition.
“If need be we will also share our suggestions with the general public. Otherwise as a country we cannot continue with speculations in the media without getting to a point when we all get to know the truth of what happened. The current approach risks serious compromise on higher principles of fairness, justice and equity; and unjustified erosion of public confidence in our crucial institutions of the government such as the judiciary. The bottom line is that allegations have been made about who did what and when during the transition, and as a nation we need to get to the truth, but only so in a formal way,” he said.
When quizzed what the society would do if it is later proven that the Chief Justice was involved in the plot, Theu could not preempt the course of action saying the society would only act upon verified information.
“Let’s cross the Rubicon when we get there; MLS is not in a position to spell out what it could do based on assumptions. Our statutory mandate is broadly to help the public in matters of rule of law. What the MLS would do, will be determined when the whole nation has the correct information which can only be arrived at by hearing all parties concerned through established means,” Theu said.