Parliament in Business Unusual in Wake of Covid-19, Sets Conduct Guidelines
Parliament of Malawi has put in place exclusive guideline to govern conduct of meetings of the house during the period of the Corona Virus pandemic.
The guidelines have been spelt out in a communication dated May 21, 2020 to all parliamentarians by Speaker of Parliament Catherin Gottani Hara.
Among other things, plenary will be held for no more than two hours each day and every sitting of the house shall not be attended by more than 100 members seated in numbered seats and shall not be allowed to change seats.
Parliamentarians aged above sixty and those with pre-existing medical conditions are encouraged to work from lodges for their health and safety and shall only be allowed to avail themselves at Parliament for substantive voting.
Political party whips will be expected to ensure that all their parliamentarians are allowed a chance in the 193-member-parliament are given opportunity to attend sittings by submitting nominations to the Clerk of Parliament.
However, there will always be reserve seats for the Speaker, a designated deputy Speaker, leaders of the house, 23 cabinet ministers, leader of the opposition and front benchers of the opposition in the house.
The number of table clerks, sergeant at arms, ushers and technical staff in the visitors’ gallery for cabinet ministers has also been trimmed.
The communication says no refreshments besides water will be provided during the plenary, no variation of the order of business, Points of Order shall be disallowed except where it is absolutely necessary and all notices of business including the Order Paper shall be circulated electronically hence the need for members shall have to bring along laptops.
Save for limited paper documents, all plenary documents shall only be accessible electronically, according to the new guidelines.
“Questions to Ministers shall be in writing, and these will be responded to in writing and posted on designated areas. Each member will use designated microphones, and no sharing of microphones will be encouraged.
“The Presiding Officer shall ensure that each Member follows all personal hygiene measures that have been put in place within the Chamber. Failure to comply shall result in the immediate removal of a Member from the Chamber,” reads part of the communication from the Speaker.
The limitations have extended to cluster committee meetings where duration for meetings has been reduced, use of desk microphones stopped. Access to parliament by members of the public shall also be restricted such that no people will be allowed to follow proceedings in the public gallery.
Parliament is expected to stream proceedings live on its Facebook page, twitter account and local radio and TV stations which the public is being encouraged to follow.