US embassy cable - 05LILONGWE540

SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT COLLAPSES DURING IMPEACHMENT DEBATE

Identifier: 05LILONGWE540
Wikileaks: View 05LILONGWE540 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lilongwe
Created: 2005-06-24 10:45:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: ECON KCOR KDEM PGOV PREL MI Political Parliament
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L LILONGWE 000540 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR AF/S, INR/AA 
STATE FOR EB/IFD/OMA FRANCES CHISHOLM 
TREASURY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS/AFRICA/BEN CUSHMAN 
MCC FOR KEVIN SABA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/24/2015 
TAGS: ECON, KCOR, KDEM, PGOV, PREL, MI, Political, Parliament 
SUBJECT: SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT COLLAPSES DURING IMPEACHMENT 
DEBATE 
 
REF: LILONGWE 00508 
 
Classified By: Classified By: CDA D. Gilmour for reasons 1.4 b and d 
 
1. (C) Summary: The Speaker of Parliament collapsed on the 
House floor on June 23 as MPs debated procedures for possible 
Presidential impeachment.  He was then taken to the hospital, 
stabilized, and then flown to South Africa. Parliament has 
been indefinitely suspended, and it is unclear who will take 
the place of the well-regarded Speaker.  Meanwhile, President 
Mutharika has told donors that he does not believe that the 
impeachment will proceed, because the charges will not stand 
the scrutiny of judicial review.  End summary. 
 
 
SPEAKER SUFFERS HEART ATTACK 
---------------------------- 
 
2. (U) Speaker Rodwell Munyenyembe fell into his chair as he 
was trying to quiet a shouting match between MPs yesterday 
around noon, suffering from an apparent heart attack. 
Opposition MPs had put forward a motion to set up the 
procedural mechanism within Parliament for the impeachment of 
presidents or vice-presidents. The ability to impeach 
presidents is laid out in the Constitution, but the 
procedures for impeachment have never been added to 
Parliament's "standing orders."  This must be done before any 
impeachment motions are presented. 
 
3. (U) After the motion to set up impeachment proceedings was 
put forward, the Speaker declared the issue must first go 
through Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee. MPs then began 
shouting back and forth, the Speaker stood up to quiet them, 
and then collapsed back into his chair.  Nearly twenty 
minutes then passed before paramedics arrived. 
 
4. (SBU) The attending hospital physician told Charge that 
the speaker was "nearly dead" by the time he arrived at the 
hospital, and that he had to be defibrillated and 
resuscitated.  The doctor speculated that he may have 
suffered brain damage, but could not be sure because the 
hospital did not have the required diagnostic equipment to 
make a determination.  The Speaker was evacuated to South 
Africa by air ambulance late in the evening of June 23. 
 
 
PRESIDENT SEEMINGLY NOT WORRIED ABOUT IMPEACHMENT 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
5. (C) At precisely the same moment this drama was playing 
out in Parliament, the ambassadors of the UK and Germany and 
the UN ResRep were meeting with President Mutharika elsewhere 
in State House, as part of a regular series of meetings with 
donor heads of mission.  The participants in that meeting 
told Charge that the president briefly discussed the 
impeachment effort, but dismissed it as political maneuvering 
on the part of the opposition, particularly the UDF. 
Mutharika opined that the charges would not stand the 
scrutiny of judicial review.  He lamented that the 
impeachment debate was taking valuable time and energy from 
the important business of parliament, particularly the budget. 
 
 
COMMENT: SCHEDULE UNCERTAIN BUT BUDGET WILL LIKELY PASS 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
6. (SBU) The Speaker's exit leaves the current session of 
Parliament, including the proposed budget and possible 
impeachment motions, in flux.  Parliament has been adjourned 
indefinitely, and it is not clear if it will sit next week. 
The Speaker is very highly regarded, and looked at as one of 
the few people capable of maintaining order in the House. 
His deputies are both junior MPs, and it is doubtful they 
will be able to take his place effectively.  If Munyenyembe 
is unable to return, the President could put forward a new 
candidate for speaker, but it is unclear who that might be. 
 
7. (SBU) On the budget front, an opposition MP with whom we 
met last week has publicly said Parliament will not reject 
the budget.  The Deputy chair of Parliament's Budget and 
Finance Committee was quoted in the press as saying that the 
opposition has some problems with the budget, but will not 
completely derail it.  Parliament's debate of the budget 
itself has not yet begun, but many Malawians have expressed 
concerns that the opposition might reject it for political 
reasons. 
GILMOUR 

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