Wednesday, December 11, 2013
SPEECH DELIVERED BY MALAWI ELECTORAL SUPPORT NETWORK CHAIRPERSON MR. STEVE DUWA ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ON DECEMBER 10 2013 AT BINGU INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE IN LILONGWE
Guest of Honour ,Minister responsible for Good Governance ,Dr Chris Daza
Chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Commission
Cabinet Ministers here present
All Ambassadors and High Commissioners present
Political leaders here present
Representatives of the Religious groups
Representatives of Civil Society Organizations
Members of the Press
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very delighted, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, to make this keynote address as we commemorate International Day of Human Rights today. It is an important function because of its theme: “FREE AND FAIR 2014 TRIPARTITE ELECTIONS: MY RIGHT AND MY RESPONSIBILITY” as you all know that the country will have tripartite elections on 20th May next year.
Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen, the International Human Rights Day falls on December 10 every year. This day crowns the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. On this date in contemporary history, the nations joined together to try and bury once and for all, the specter of genocide raised by the Second World War. This declaration further aimed to form a basis for human rights all over the world and represented a significant change of direction from events during the World War II and the continuing colonialism that was rife in the world at the time.
Malawi joins other nations worldwide to remember those who have been affected by violence and abuse in one way or the other. In this way, we demonstrate our commitment of building a compassionate, caring and just society as espoused by the values of the Republic of Malawi Constitution.
Now, allow me our Guest of honour, Ladies and Gentlemen, to go back to theme for this year which is: FREE AND FAIR 2014 TRIPARTITE ELECTIONS: MY RIGHT AND MY RESPONSIBILITY. The local theme for this year is a continuation of the theme for the 2012 commemoration that focused on “participation rights”.
In this regard, this year’s theme is focusing in particular on one of the most important events in Malawi that has a fundamental linkage with “participation rights”, i.e., the Tripartite Elections slated for 20th May, 2014. The area of focus presents a timely opportunity to continue the discussion that commenced last year on the nexus between Elections and the fundamental Human Right of participating in political decision making. Under the theme, a number of key messages having a bearing on “participation rights” will be highlighted, including, the right of every citizen to participate in the conduct of public affairs, to vote and to be elected, and to have equal access to public service, and the aspect of inclusion. Section 40 of the Republic of Malawi Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) legally guarantee and protect these rights.
Our guest of honor, Ladies and Gentlemen, participation rights also flow directly from UDHR which emphasize Articles 19, 20, and 21 providing (i) the right to freedom of expression and opinion; (ii) the right to freedom of assembly and association; and (iii) the right to take part in government, either directly or through freely elected representatives. Elections are a vital conduit for participating in political decision- making and are the key vehicle towards the realization of human rights. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) legally guarantees and protects these rights. According to the ICCPR, which sets legally binding obligations upon 167 States Parties, the right to participation in the conduct of public affairs applies to “every citizen without exception”.
With this year’s focus on participation rights, Malawi Electoral Support Network invites people to re-affirm their right to voice their opinion, to take part in public discourse, decision-making processes, including the right to vote; as essential elements in achieving the full range of Human Rights. This is more so as Malawi is gradually approaching the year of elections which are an important component in the discourse of participation. The commemoration therefore, serves as an opportunity to highlight the significance of greater inclusion, participation in public matters and provides for individuals to influence the decisions that shape their communities, demand accountability from elected leaders including government.
Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to urge Malawians that qualify for nominations to come out in their large numbers to contest for any of the positions in the tripartite elections. In the same vein, I would also like to ask political parties to put in place deliberate affirmative action that would encourage women and youth to come out and participate in the primaries. I call upon aspiring women and youth not to give up easily as there are many opportunities for them if they are determined to take up leadership roles and be part of decision making processes in our country.
In the same vein, I would like to encourage the youth to take up their rightful role in society by among other things stand up as aspirants for Members of Parliament and ward councilors and refuse to be used as agents for political violence. The 2014 tripartite elections should provide an opportunity for the youth and women to unleash their potential in nation building. This commemoration, should also serve as an opportunity to highlight the significance of greater inclusion of marginalized sections of society, participation in public matters and reminding Malawians of their responsible role in influencing the decisions that shape their communities.
Guest of Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen, MESN would also like to commend Parliament for harmonizing some electoral laws in preparation for the 2014 Tripartite elections. These include the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act no. 31 of 1993 as amended (PPEA) and the Local Government Elections Act no. 24 of 1996 (LGEA) in order to ensure a smooth conduct of elections.
However, MESN is saddened by the fact that Members of Parliament will be voting members at council level and at the same time councilors will be working as volunteers. We feel this will hugely compromise quality service delivery at local level and this also will defeat the essence of effective decentralization. We therefore call upon government to revisit this aspect of councilors’ salaries and MPs as voting members at council level. Parliament is urged therefore, to pass the remaining amendments before the May 20 2014 elections.
May I take this opportunity to thank development partners who are supporting the electoral process by providing funds to MEC through UNDP and to CSOs through institutions like NDI, Dan Church Aid , the Norwegian Church Aid, the NGO-Gender Coordination Network and NICE. Government too should be commended for remaining committed to providing funds to MEC for the elections. We call upon both development partners and government to maintain steady flow of funds to the partners who are implementing election activities on the ground. May I call upon all recipients of these funds to make proper use of the funds and account for each and every penny used.
Our Guest of Honor, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to thank this Government under President Dr. Joyce Banda for granting Malawi Electoral Support Network permission to use the name Malawi. It was a battle that we fought for so many years only to be won this year around October. Using the name Malawi makes MESN more visible and acceptable both locally and internationally.
With regards to the tripartite elections MESN through its membership will continue providing civic and voter education messages in general and issue based voter education in particular. Time has come for citizens to make electoral choices from an informed position.MESN will also continue with its role of observing the electoral process and plans to run Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) during the forthcoming elections as it successfully did in 2009 elections. PVT will enhance the credibility of the elections. Allow me therefore to commend MEC for encouraging those with capacity to run a PVT.
Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the great work done by the Malawi Human Rights Commission and other stakeholders involved in this year’s commemoration. As part of the commemoration of the day, MHRC in collaboration with various partners have conducted sensitization meetings on the theme of Free and Fair 2014 Tripartite elections.
These were done in eight selected districts of Mzimba and Karonga in the North, Ntcheu and Salima in the Central, Mangochi and Machinga in the East and Phalombe and Mulanje in the South. The Commission also visited the Prisons in Mangochi, Ntcheu, Mulanje and Mzimba where eligible voters are serving sentences. This is a commendable step in the right direction by the commission in ensuring that every eligible Malawian is accorded equal opportunity to participate in the our nation’s affairs.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.