Tue 16 August 2011
Re: Postponement of Vigil scheduled for Wednesday, 17th August 2011
We, the Organising committee of the Vigil (Southern Region) scheduled for Wednesday, 17th August 2011, hereby announce the postponement of our much anticipated vigil with profound regret and disappointment. The main reasons underpinning this difficult decision are as follows:
Our colleagues in Lilongwe were invited to a meeting at the police HQ in Area 30, where they were apprised of S106 of the Police Act 2009 which reads as follows:
If any riot damage occurs as a result of an assembly or a demonstration, every organization on behalf of or under the auspices of which the assembly or demonstration was held, the convener, and every person participating in the assembly or demonstration, as the case may be, shall be liable for that damage as a joint wrongdoer together with any other person who unlawfully caused or contributed to such riot damage.
The CSO Leaders were then officially warned by the Police Top Brass that any persons who played any role in convening or holding a public demonstration of any sort would be held jointly liable damages emanating from any acts of violence, looting, arson, rioting, or other illegal activity carried out by any persons known or unknown prior to, during or after the said event.
Any move to hold a demonstration of any sort would therefore invite the unmitigated brunt of legal action and any other consequences emanating therefrom.
The on-going court hearing on the injunction against demonstrations lodged by Messrs. James Willie and Rodrick Makapu may not be finalised in good time. This could lead to inadequate arrangements that could cause confusion and subsequent disturbances for which the blame would be laid squarely at our door. Further we have always subscribed to the Rule of Law and adherence to the Constitution and have no desire for inadvertent transgression.
We have been extremely perturbed by widespread rumours of a mercenary force imported from Zimbabwe with a singular purpose – i.e. to destabilise any protest gathering or demonstration with extreme violence. Being ever mindful of the safety of our fellow human beings, we do not wish to put any human beings in harm's way simply for adding their voices to ours.
When all is said and done therefore, we hereby join our colleagues in Lilongwe in postponing our anticipated vigil for the next thirty days during which time the United Nations Team can mediate the impasse towards peaceful and equitable resolution thereof. Our peaceful Vigil scheduled for Wednesday, 17th August 2011 has therefore been postponed until 17th September 2011 if no meaningful progress has been achieved.
However, we cannot prevent any Malawians from exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and of expression and would thus not dissuade or prevent our brothers and sisters if they are still determined to go ahead with actions such as staying at home, wearing red clothing, going slow, or walking to work etc. on their own volition. We believe that it is an inalienable constitutional right of all Malawians to hold elected Duty Bearers to account.
MODERATOR'S NOTE: The Civil Society leaders who announced the postponement in Blantyre in Institute for Policy Interaction's Executive Director, Rafik Hajat.