…attempt to shutdown airports considered treasonous-Dausi
Three days before five-day nationwide demonstrations set to paralyse operations at airports and border points in the country from Monday, government has gone into overdrive and secured a contested legal dampener to the protests.
At a press briefing at Capitol Hill in Lilongwe today (Friday), Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi disclosed details of the gazette the government secured, over the past three days, which have declared the airports and border posts out of bounds for the demonstrators.
The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has organised the ‘higher gear’ demonstrations as the latest of a series of protests it has organised to try and force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly presiding over a fraudulent May 21 general elections in which President Peter Mutharika was declared the winner.
But the HRDC and legal and governance commentators said although the government seemed to have put a legal spin to stopping, or weakening the protests, this appears to be an exercise in futility because the gazette law falls out when weighed against the right the Constitution gives to citizens demonstrating peacefully.
At the presser he jointly held with Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Mark Bottoman and Civic Education, Dausi said the supplementary laws have declared airports, land boarders, Capital Hill, prisons, National Oil Company of Malawi strategic fuel reserves and the Reserve Bank of Malawi as protected areas, hence no one is allowed to hold demonstrations at these places, as doing so is treasonous.
He was quoting from an extraordinary Malawi Gazette Supplement, dated 22 August, 2019 containing rules and regulations on Government notice numbers 59,60,61,62,63,64 and 65 which the Dausi and Bottoman read out to reporters.
According to the two ministers, the gazette gives power to the minister of Homeland Security to exercise his powers as provided for in the Preservation of Public Security Act section 3 to make the regulations.
On the planned demonstrations, from 26th to 30 August, Dausi said conducting the demos in those place is an act of aggression and promised that government will use appropriate measures to protect its soverignity.
“Our boarders and airports are among protected places where demonstrations are not allowed and cannot be allowed. Therefore, any attempt to shut down our boarders and airports will be regarded a treasonous attack on the state of Malawi, its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
In response to the development, HRDC vice chairperson Gift Trapence has said it is difficult for them to respond to the new regulations, saying the issue of whether the said places have been protected areas was in court and that government failed to bring evidence and had to do it overnight to back their claim.
“The issues are in court. the regulations have been bought after yesterday’s court session (in Blantyre). So, I can’t comment more; we should wait for the courts,” he said.
According to the new regulations, no one is to hold a demonstration or assemble in protected place, saying that such a person who contravenes the provisions commits an offence. On airports, the regulations protect the whole areas enclosed by the wire, and roads surrounding airports, thus Kamuzu, in Lilongwe, Chileka, in Blantyre, and Mzuzu.