Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara has slapped two legislators with two days ban each for causing disorder in the House on Wednesday and yesterday.
The Speaker yesterday announced the suspension of Dowa East member of Parliament (MP) Richard Chimwendo Banda (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) and Blantyre City South East MP Sameer Suleman (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) following a heated debate on disorder.
In her ruling, Hara, whom the government side accused of exercising leniency on errant opposition legislators, used Standing Order 105 (3) on Sanctions Against Disorderly Conduct which says that if a member is named, the Speaker may direct that he or she be suspended from the National Assembly for two sitting days from the time of suspension.
She said: “The member for Dowa East has conceded that he did something wrong. The difference is that Standing Order 105 was not used. That is where the difference was and why the sergeant at arms did not come to take the member out [of the chamber].
“Today [yesterday], I did specifically order the member out. But since the member has conceded he did wrong, I, therefore, order Dowa East to be suspended just like Blantyre City South East for two days.”
Suleman provoked the wrath of the Speaker when he stood on a point of order to contribute to a question Lilongwe City South East legislator Ulemu Msungama (MCP) asked on what government planned to do with the 7 000 metric tonnes of maize that got rotten under the watch of State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc).
Suleman, who is also chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and Irrigation, stated that the question Msungama had asked was already addressed in his committee’s report yet to be presented in the House. He, therefore, asked Msungama to wait for the same and then proceeded to provide recommendations made by his committee.
The Speaker found Suleman’s conduct disorderly.
Despite the Speaker’s intervention, Suleman continued making his point, a development that prompted Hara to stand so that the legislator, as per parliamentary protocol, could take his seat. However, Suleman did not take his seat.
The Speaker unleashed Standing Order 105 on the member to leave the House. But Suleman refused, arguing that the previous day Chimwendo Banda also ignored the Speaker’s command.
In reaction to the Speaker’s order against Suleman, the government side in the House, including Cabinet ministers, stood up in protest and challenged the sergeant at arms to a fist fight if he dared move the MP out. Suleman was seen taking off his jacket in protest to the order.
Business in the House ground to a halt for about 30 minutes before the Speaker adjourned Parliament 20 minutes earlier for lunch break normally taken at 12.30 hours.
Before being suspended, Chimwendo Banda defended himself, saying he did not go out of the House on Wednesday because First Deputy Speaker Madalitso Kazombo did not use Standing Order 105 which was used on Suleman.
Chimwendo Banda said he was ready to go out if he was ordered to do so by the Speaker using the relevant Standing Order 105.
On Wednesday afternoon, tempers flared in the House after Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa moved a motion to waive relevant Standing Orders to allow for the printing of a Supplementary Order Paper.
The revised schedule was meant to allow the House to handle the business of confirming two public officers, namely Auditor General-designate Joseph Nangantani and acting Inspector General (IG) of Police Duncan Mwapasa as IG.
However, the motion was shot down by the opposition through a voice vote. This forced the government side to push for division which was granted, but chaos erupted after ringing the bell for five minutes so that all members who were not in the chamber should get in. In an interview on Wednesday, Nankhumwa said they were not satisfied with Kazombo’s ruling that there was disorder in the House because the unfolding events were normal in Parliament, especially when sticky issues are on the floor.