27 June 2018

Malawi Prominent Newspaper Backs Lifting President's Immunity From Prosecution - 'It Makes Sense'

A prominent daily newspaper in Malawi, The Nation, has endorsed debating the motion that that will strip a sitting President of their immunity from prosecution.

Chiradzulu North member of Parliament (MP) Willet Kalonga (independent) is set to table a Private Member's Motion to amend Section 91(2) of the Constitution to remove the provision that gives a sitting President immunity.

His notice to move the motion follows Vice-President Saulos Chilima calling for an amendment of a constitutional provision that would enable the removal of presidential immunity.

In an editorial comment on Tuesday, The Nation, said revising the presidential immununity "makes sense" because MP Kalonga raises an interesting point when he says the provision defeats the purpose of the presidency to uphold the rule of law. Further, he argues that everyone is equal before the law and that, in some cases, the President's cronies and associates engage in corruption in the name of the President.

"We see this is a healthy debate that should be given room, including in the National Assembly," the paper said in its editorial comment.

The paper said removing the immunity of the sitting President would keep the office bearers on their toes "and enhance their commitment to fight corruption."

Chilima, who is on record as having condemned appalling corruption levels in the government he serves, called for the amendment of the law on the basis that the provision is a licence for the presidency to engage in corrupt practices as the office bearers know they would not be prosecuted.

Section 91 of the Constitution gives immunity from civil lawsuits and criminal charges to a person holding the office of President or performing the functions of President.

Section 91(2) reads: "No person holding the office of President shall be charged with any criminal offence in any court during his term of office."

Governance commentator Mankhumbo Munthali said the debate makes more sense indded because the presidency should not be "a safe heaven where someone should run to in order to escape from the whims of justice."

Munthali said he is strongly of the view that a President implicated in serious crimes like corruption and murder should be exempted from immunity.

Meanwhile, Kalonga, who has appealed to MPs across the divide to support the motion for the sake of future generations, said an effective political leadership. said when a President is blatantly involved in corruption and fraud, it defeats the purpose of the presidency to uphold the rule of law.

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