Speech by Commissioner Rev. Ambassador Emmanuel Chinkwita Phiri Chairperson of the Electoral Services Committee of the Malawi Electoral Commission During the Commemoration of the International Human Rights Day On 10th December 2013
Theme “Free and Fair 2014 Tripartite Elections: My Right, My Responsibility”
Your Excellency, the State President of the Republic of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda,
Your Excellency, Chief Justice Rtd, Honorable Richard Banda,
Your Honour The Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, Mr Khumbo Hastings Kachali,
Your Honour, the Chief Justice, Honorable Justice Anastazia Msosa, SC.
Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Henry Chimunthu Banda
Honorable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of Parliament
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Mrs. Thandiwe Dumbutshena
The Chairperson, Malawi Human Rights Commission, Ambassador Mrs. Sophie Kalinde,
Commissioners from Malawi Human Rights Commission
Commissioners from Malawi Electoral Commission
Distinguished Leaders of political parties
Paramount Chiefs and all Chiefs
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is with great honour that I am standing before your Excellency and distinguished guests today to make some remarks on this important day as Malawi is commemorating the International Human Rights Day.
Your Excellency, the commemoration of the Human Rights Day this year has come at a better time as Malawi is preparing to hold the first Tripartite Elections in the history of the country. Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Tripartite Elections which will take place on 20th May 2014, will accord an opportunity for voters in Malawi to vote for Councilors who will represent their Wards, Members of Parliament who will represent their Constituencies and a President who will represent the nation. Therefore, Your Excellency, the Malawi Electoral Commission finds the theme for this year’s commemoration for the International Human Rights Day entitled “Free and Fair 2014 Tripartite Elections: My Right, My Responsibility” quite suited to our constitutional mandate.
Your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Malawi Electoral Commission together with the other stakeholders cannot begin to talk about conducting free, fair, transparent, credible and cost effective elections without the issue of participation rights. Participation of people in all electoral processes is a critical component to achieving acceptable elections.
If I may be allowed to quote a report of the UN Secretary General of 1991: Elections in and of themselves do not constitute democracy. They are not an end but a set up, albeit an important and often essential one, on the path towards the democratization of societies and the realization of the right to take part in the governance of one’s country as enunciated in major international human rights instrument. It would be unfortunate to confuse the end with the means and to forget that democracy implies far more than the mere act of periodically casting a vote, but covers the entire process of participation by citizens in the political life of their country.
Your Excellency, our understanding is that for us to sustain democracy as a nation, we need to conduct periodic free, fair and credible elections. However, the periodic elections need to be accompanied by the right of people to participate in choosing their leaders at local and national level and the right of people to continuously participate in political life before and after the elections. Effective full participation in a free and fair election is an essential element in the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights.
Your Excellency, the Malawi Electoral Commission as one of the Democratic Accountability Institutions in Malawi, works alongside other institutions upholds human rights. The Commission has and continues to abide by the legal instruments that govern the conduct of elections in Malawi namely: The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi , the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act no. 31 of 1993, the Local Government Elections Act no. 24 of 1996 and the Electoral Commission Act no. 11 of 1998.
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Commission also ensures that the various Codes of Conduct that regulate the conduct of various stakeholders such as the Media, Political Parties and Civil Society are developed by the stakeholders themselves to so that their rights are not violated and those of other players are not violated. We also uphold people’s rights by continuously ensuring that we provide information to the public to enable them to participate in the various electoral processes such as registration of voters, nomination, campaign, polling and announcement of results through civic and voter education programmes.
Your Excellency, the Malawi Electoral Commission also provides information and spaces for political party representatives and individuals to contest in elections as Councilors, Members of Parliament and President. Through such information and spaces people are accorded their rights to participate in elections as enshrined in the Constitution.
Your Excellency let me emphasize that we all here as stakeholders have a role to uphold the rights of people in the forth-coming elections. The Commission will play its role by ensuring that the elections are accessible to all, however other stakeholders also have a role to play.
Civil Society Organizations. Your Excellency, the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have a role to monitor and observe the entire electoral processes to ensure that the rights of citizens to participate are not violated and that people have access to the various electoral processes. The CSOs also have a role to provide adequate, quality voter information and education to the masses and candidates to ensure that they participate meaningfully.
Political parties. Political parties have a role to play by ensuring that they campaign peacefully promoting their manifestos and attracting voters to vote for their candidates. The parties should uphold the people’s rights by featuring both men and women, the youth, disabled and other vulnerable people as candidates in forth coming elections. Political parties need to emphasize on issue based campaign that can give people a platform to make informed choices thereby upholding people’s rights to full participation. Political parties should desist from hate speech, violence, smear campaigns, bribery in order for them to attract more candidates and voters in the next year’s elections. Your Excellency, Political parties should realize that voters have a right to political choices and this is fundamental.
The media. The media too has a role to play in ensuring that voters are well informed in order for them to meaningfully participate in the elections. The media should not be used as tool to scare people away from the elections but rather attracting and motivating people to participate as candidates and voters. The media should create a conducive environment where people feel free and secure to exercise their right to participate in the various electoral processes including the actual voting and ensuring peace and calm after the announcement of results. The right to freedom of expression and opinion should be upheld at all times by the media.
The voters. Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, the voters have a right to participate in the elections to choose their leaders and to participate in public life beyond the elections. The voters have a right to continuously engage their leaders at local and national levels. It is the wish of the Malawi Electoral Commission to see to it that as many voters as possible are motivated and turn out to exercise their right to participate in public life by taking the first step in voting for leaders of their choice.
You may also wish to note Your Excellency that the Commission is also working closely with other democratic governance institutions such as the Anti Corruption Bureau, Malawi Human Rights Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, Centre for Multi Party Democracy to ensure that they coordinate wherever voters feel their rights have been violated. The collaboration also extends to provision of voter information to voters top allow full participation in the electoral process.
In conclusion let me thank the organizers of this year’s event and implore all of us to consider our different roles in upholding our rights to participation in the various electoral processes. Let me also encourage eligible persons in Nkhotakota and Salima districts, Mzuzu City, Mzimba South, Mzimba Solola, Kasungu North, Kasungu North-West, Kasungu South and Kasungu South-East constituencies to go and register so that they are able to exercise your right to choose leaders come 20 May 2014.
I thank your Excellency, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
May God Bless our Nation,
Thank you very much.