Minister, aides defend Malawi President Mutharika’s press-dodging on UNGA

Minister of Foreign Affairs and international Cooperation Emmanuel Fabiano defended President Peter Mutharika, who has been under fire from the local media for his prolonged stay in the United States of America after attending this year’s United Nations General Assembly, for staying away at a press conference which was to take place at Kamuzu Palace to brief journalists on his trip, saying there is no law demanding President to hold presser.

Emmanuel Fabiano: saying there is no law demanding President to hold presser.

Fabiano was accompanied by presidential spin doctor Bright Molande (State House director of communications) and presidential spokesman Mgeme Kalilani.

He said Mutharika was not dodging the probing journalists, saying the press conference was not the only platform for Mutharika to issues arising.

“There are other avenues for sharing that kind of information and the President does respond to questions from time to tie,” said Fabiano. Journalists said they wanted a face-to-face interactive opportunity to grill President Mutharika on pressing issues relating to blood sucking incidents and political violence that governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadres are alleged to have been perpetrating.

“The President will respond to such issues at an appropriate time, but for now we are focusing on what happened at the United Nations General Assembly,” Fabiano said.

It has been always a tradition that whenever a President return from the UNGA, there is a press conference where Government and the President brief the nation on what transpired at the conference and other engagements the President had while in the USA.

Last year, despite him being in ill health after he went for medical treatment while in the USA, the President was still forced to hold a press conference at the State House where among several other issues he explained his health condition and why he had to stay long after the UNGA. But Mollande said “there is no statutory requirement” that when a President goes abroad there should be a press conference on return.

“It is an expectation which we understand but not mandatory that every time the President has travelled abroad that he must directly address the media,” said Molande,

He said there should be “other avenues” of engaging government to address other national issues.

During the news conference, Fabiano was evasive on the question of the size of delegation or budget to UNGA.

President Mutharika, left the country on September 15, with a 19 member delegation to the annual UN general assembly held from September 19 to 25 and while other Heads of State and Governments returned to their respective countries soon after the conference ended, Mutharika who arrived earlier than his colleagues had to stay for another 11 days in the USA.

Asked to explain why Mutharika extended his stay after UNGA, Fabiano said the Malawi leader had “more engagements” than the time available at UN.

Fabiano said “it was cost effective to pack in as many meeting as possible. What the government achieves from these meetings matters more than the number of days.”

He said most of the 38 meetings Mutharika had were meant to initiate cooperation.

Mutharika religiously makes the annual pilgrimage to the UNGA in New York but analysts say Malawi should engage the international community in a cost-effective manner.

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