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Joyce Banda condemns MPs

President Joyce Banda yesterday condemned members of Parliament for demanding hefty fuel allowances that could see each MP pocketing K10 million in arrears dating back to May 2009.

Banda expressed the concern during her development rally at Mudi in Traditional Authority Kapeni’s area in Blantyre where she inspected crops.

She said she was disappointed that the MPs were making such demands considering the current economic situation in the country.

“The same people damaged the economy. I found the government coffers empty.

“While I am trying to raise money, while I am trying to find means to assist civil servants, while we are trying to ensure availability of drugs in hospitals, each MP wants to receive K10 million each. When I asked one MP, explain to me the justification for this?

“The MP answered that we should get the money because people won’t elect us back to Parliament (in 2014),” said Banda, attracting an applause from the audience.

There are 193 MPs in the Parliament, which translates into a K1.93 billion bill for the fuel allowances if implemented by the government.

Yesterday afternoon, most MPs shunned debate at the beginning of the sitting at Parliament in Lilongwe.

Most members, notably from the opposition benches, were not contributing to the debate on the budget statement Finance Minister Ken Lipenga made in Parliament two weeks ago.

Though some opposition political parties said they do not have control over what their members of Parliament should say, some MPs confided that most of them were unhappy with the way the issue of their fuel allowances, dating back to 2009 is being handled.

Noting lack of participation from the opposition benches, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Abel Kayembe wondered why most MPs were not contributing to the motion.

“That side of the House [opposition side] is not contributing to the motion. Is it the intention of that side of the House not to contribute?” Wondered Kayembe.

Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda concurred with Kayembe on the observation.

By then, few MPs including Nkhata Bay South MP Etta Banda, Nkhatabay South East MP David Mphande and Mangochi North East MP Alfred Mwechumu had contributed to the debate.

But after Minister of Industry and Trade Sosten Gwengwe and Deputy Health Minister Halima Daudi contributed to the debate, there was no member who showed interest to contribute.

After 75 minutes of the meeting, Leader of the House Henry Phoya asked for an early adjournment for tea-break.

Commenting on the silence, UDF Parliamentary spokesperson Mahamud Lali said the leadership of his party has no powers to force its members to contribute.

“I agree with you on the observation that opposition MPs are not contributing to the debate. It would be difficult to give specific answers. In UDF camp, we don’t have an agenda so far. Again even if we have, when the debate is on the floor, not even the chief whip can tell his members to contribute,” Lali said.

MCP Deputy Chief Whip Lingson Belekanyama said the best person to answer is Phoya.

“The best person to answer that question is Leader of the House. He answers for all of us. He can tell you why he thinks things are happening that way,” Belekanyama said.

Sitting resumed at 16:04 hours after a prolonged tea break.

Immediately after House reconvened, Deputy Leader of the House Anita Kalinde, moved a motion to curtail the debate on Lipenga’s statement. The motion was however defeated.

Thereafter, members of Parliament from both sides of the house started contributing to the motion.

Zomba Ntonya MP Ted Salule Masangwi, Lilongwe South West MP, Wells Adam, and Belekanyama were some of the MPs who contributed from the opposition benches.

After Parliament adjourned Deputy Leader of the House Anita Kalinde said she was not aware of the MPs grievances.

“I am not aware of the issue of fuel allowances. The MPs are better placed to explain what was happening,” Kalinde said.

The MPs are asking the government to pay them at least K2 billion as fuel allowance arrears dating to May 2009.

Recently, they agreed to push the government to pay all MPs money for 500 litres of fuel each, as per the proposed and agreed monthly allocation dating back to May 2009.

Each MP’s demand could reach close to K10 million.

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