Duration of Parliament meetings questioned

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The period that the country’s Parliament meets has been described as too short to discuss pertinent issues affecting the country.

Panellists at a public debate organised by the Lilongwe chapter of the Catholic Commission and Justice (CCJP) raised the issue on Wednesday.

Currently Parliament meets three times a year, the longest period of which is the budget meeting, which takes approximately two months.

Arch-diocesan secretary Peter Ngulube Chinoko said the period that the Parliament meets is too short.

“The time Parliament meets is just too short. The budget meeting of Parliament takes five to six weeks. In other countries such meetings take about four months,” Chinoko said.

He added: “Parliament should also meet when we have important emerging issues. For instance, when the issue of Lake Malawi dispute [with Tanzania] started, Parliament was supposed to meet to discuss the issue right away.”

He said CCJP alongside other NGOs will lobby government to allocate more resources to Parliament so that it should be meeting frequently.

Political analyst Henry Chingayipe said the country’s MPs are being paid for doing little work.

“Our MPs are like people working on part-time basis. Our Parliament has the least number of days of meeting in the SADC region. They work on part-time, yet they get paid for full-time,” Chingayipe said.

The panellists and people who participated in the debate also said in the little time the MPs meet, they do not consult their constituents on policies and bills they discuss.

CCJP’s Capacity Building Manager Noel Mbowela said it is worrisome that MPs follow what their parties want.

“For a long time, people have been complaining that our MPs do not consult their constituents. Our Parliament is not people-centred. Our MPs just follow what party leaders want, forgetting that politics is a service to the people,” Mbowela said.

Among the issues, people suggested to be discussed are the mechanisation of the country’s agriculture, restoration of Recall Provision (Section 64 of the Constitution) and the assessment of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).

The debate was one of the activities marking the re-launch of Lilongwe CCJP’s Parliamentary Liaison Project which has been taking place since 2005.

It will be implemented under the title ‘Promoting Citizen Participation in Democratic Governance and Promoting the rights of Marginalised Groups through a people-centred parliament to people of Malawi.’

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