By Steven Godfrey Mkweteza
BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-Drama ensued at the Southern Region chiefs and religious leaders conference in Blantyre on abortion amendment bill discussions as some chiefs and religious leaders walked out of the meeting in disagreement with the communique which was being read out to the members of press after the meeting.
The leaders expressed discomfort to be part of the communique, saying they were not in agreement with the proposed amendments to the bill.
They said the organisers of the meeting, which was Ipas, imposed some of the contents of the communique without the knowledge of the participants.
Senior chief Kaduya from Phalombe district said most leaders were in disagreement with the drafted communique but the organisers of the meeting went on to read it to the members of the media so as not to defeat the agenda of the meeting.
“Our convictions are failing us to be part of the communique so we decided to walk out of the meeting. On the other hand, the media is beaming the meeting live so we don’t want viewers to see us being part of the endorsers of the bill,” said Kaduya.
According to Kaduya, some leaders were enticed with some presents such as money so as to convince their entourage to endorse the communique.
“Based on our discussions, most of the participants were against the amendments but all of a sudden, we noticed a change of the situation when we reconvened after the lunch break as most of the participants started giving more weight to the bill amendments,” chipped in pastor Adamson Sankhulani from Mwanza district.
But according to the champion from the traditional leaders group, senior chief Chimombo of Nsanje district, abortion bill if passed into law it will assist women seek safer ways of terminating unwanted pregnancies.
Chimombo was among some of the traditional leaders who were suspiciously given some presents to say the wanted parliament to deliberate and pass the bill.
Concurring with senior chief Chimombo was chief Chikumbu from Mulanje district who said the law will save women from avoidable deaths due to unsafe abortions.
Chikumbu said the law would also go along the way in making government save an estimated MK400 million yearly on unsafe abortions.
This comes at a time some religious leaders have strongly opposed the passing of the bill arguing it contradicts with the right to life and religious teachings.
According to Kenneth Mtago, a representative from Ipas, an international organization promoting the health rights of people including the sexual reproductive health, said he was optimistic that the bill would be passed into law based on the outcome of the consultation meetings the organization had so far.
He said the meeting was aimed at finding a final resolution on the embattled bill.
Mtago said the bill which is on the order paper to be deliberated by the members of parliament during the current sitting, was facing a huge resistance from some section mostly from the religious leaders due to among others lack of proper understanding on the contents of the bill.