President Joyce Banda has vowed that as long as she is president she will continue to travel and take along guests such as women and youth on her international meetings.

Her remarks come after critics have faulted her for being extravagant by taking a delegation of over 33 people which has cost taxpayers a whopping K308 million.

Banda defended her entourage which included four personal guests which she said were on her personal expense at a press conference on her arrival from the United Nations in New York.

Among the 33-member delegation were Chief Malemia and Mrs Kaluwire as members of the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction and the rest were officials from the State House, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Information, ministers and MPs who attended some of the meetings on her behalf.

“It was not humanly possible for me to hold and attend 35 meetings, and in any case the period that I was in the US was 10 days. It was not possible for me to attend all the meetings I have talked about here without the rest of my delegation .

“While I am president, I will continue to take women and the youths to international meetings. I have had rural women on my delegation since 1997 and I will not stop, even when I am no longer president,” she said.

Banda then compared her delegation to that of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s last visit to the UN which she said cost K700 million and the delegation had left vehicle hire debts amounting to US$600,000.

While at the UN, Banda met with the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon where she briefed him on recent provocation by the government of Tanzania over the lake boundary wrangle.

Banda disclosed that while in New York she received reports that Tanzania had released a new map showing half of the lake belonging to them, Malawian fishermen were arrested and harassed and that a boat was on the lake promising to blow away any Malawian boat that goes to the side of the purported Tanzania side of Lake Malawi.

It has also transpired that in his address to the nation, Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete told his people that Malawians were denying them the right to their lake, contrary to his promise to Banda that he would resolve the issue with his own people.

Malawi has since decided to put aside talks and pursue mediation through the International Court of Justice but war was not on the cards even if Malawi lost the case.

During her trip where she met potential investors in the areas of energy and mining, oil and gas the immediate benefit from her meetings amounted to K3 billion in drugs, food and other equipment.

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