Peter Mutharika, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, on Thursday succumbed to pressure and surrendered his green card to the United States of America (USA) Embassy in Lilongwe.
Mutharika, who has also resigned as a member of Parliament (MP) for Thyolo East Constituency, says he has surrendered his green card—a permit that allows one to work and reside in the USA—to put the matter to rest.
Mutharika’s presidential candidacy was under scrutiny over his possession of a green card whose status many commentators equated to owing allegiance to the US.
He said: “Although all legal experts I have consulted have advised me that I owe no allegiance to the government of the United States of America and that the green card is not a legal impediment to my candidature, I have decided to abandon and surrender the card voluntarily.”
In a letter dated February 4 this year, Mutharika’s lawyer, Samuel Tembenu wrote to the USA Embassy requesting confirmation on the status of a green card.
Reads Tembenu’s letter in part: “Our client is a holder of a green card. He is also intending to stand as a presidential candidate in the forthcoming general elections. If you have followed the recent debate in the print and electronic media, there has been a divergence of opinion whether he owes allegiance to the USA by reason of being a holder of a green card, it has been suggested by others that holding a green card bars his candidature.”
In response a day later, the Embassy wrote: “The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service [USCIS] administers US immigration matters. A green card [Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card] is issued to permanent residents as proof that they are authorised to live and work in the United States.
“The issuance of a green card does not convey US citizenship or imply the allegiance of the bearer to the United States.”
Political analyst Blessings Chinsinga has described Mutharika’s move as strategic. He said, the move will not only put the green card issue to rest but also give him time to concentrate on his political campaign.
“It is a well placed move, this issue [green card] was becoming common and it would have detracted his attention from the campaign and what he has done was to kill everything,” he said.
Briefing journalists later, Mutharika said Malawians should demand explanation on how the Capital Hill cashgate came into being.
He said: “As a nation, we must deal with the existing hunger situation, breakdown of security which has left us living in constant fear every day and not knowing what will happen to us next day, the coming May 20 elections are crucial because this country faces unprecedented challenges.
“The people must therefore be allowed to choose the leaders they want in a democratic and transparent manner. Unjustified use of the legal system to bar some people from standing as candidates because the government is desperate to retain power beyond May 20 should be rejected by all Malawians,” he said.