….standing orders only provide maximum of 10 days suspension
Speaker of Parliament Catherine Hara Gotani has broken the standing orders for the house by imposing a 14 days suspension on Mulanje South East MP Naomi Chilewa after she defied her order to leave the house during the State of the Nation Address by President Lazarus Chakwera.
The Speaker has no such powers and her decision to ban a parliamentarian for half a working month is not backed by any standing order, save the Head of Legislatures wish to please her party leaders that she is dealing with the opposition.
According to standing orders, the Speaker can only suspend an MP for misbehaviours for two days if it is first time during that meeting, five days if it happens again and 10 days if they continue.
Chilewa had indicated that she was scared of MCP thugs that were in the visitors gallery as such she could not go out of the chamber. The Speaker did not provide security to her.
Standing order 105 (3) allows the Speaker to suspend any member who refuses to go out after they have been ordered to do so. But the sections provides for limits namely:
105 (3) (a) on the first occasion, for the two sitting days period from time of suspensions; (b)on the second occasion during the same Meeting, for the five consecutive sitting following the day of suspension and (c) on a third or later occasion during the same Meeting, for ten consecutive sitting days following suspension.
Parliament spokesperson Ian Mwenye could not be reached to ascertain where the Speaker drew power to impose such a punishment. Speakers are ordinary parliamentarians elected to chair proceedings of parliament and do not have quasi-judicial functions.
A lawyer noted, “The Speaker by defying standing orders and imposing her own sort of punishment is showing how dangerous she can be given power. This is uncalled for as it cannot be substantiated as the rules governing parliament are standing orders which cannot be varied by an individual.
Chilewa could not be reached for a comment.