By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi Government says it is disturbed and dismayed by the judgement of High Court Judge, Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda that ordered the release of four Chinese nationals, who had been quarantined on arrival at Kamuzu International Airport on Tuesday March 17 to be medically assessed for Coronavirus.
A statement from Minister of Information, Civic Education & Communications Technology, Mark Botomani, announced that
the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services sent back to China 10 nationals and detained four others because they did not have return air tickets for their immediate return.
The four were quarantined pending processing of their return air tickets.
“The deportation and quarantining of the Chinese was in keeping with international practice currently recommended to curb the spread of the devastating Coronavirus from high-risk countries,” said the statement.
“It was while the four waited for the tickets that a local legal firm, Wilknson & Associates, sought a court order which Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda granted, releasing the four even before any tests were conducted on them and before the recommended 14-day quarantine period had elapsed.”
The Government says it finds Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda’s order disturbing and short on patriotism as he has undermined local and global efforts to protect lives from the virus.
“At a time different players are taking active roles to prevent importation of COVID-19 into Malawi, it is disappointing that Judge Nyirenda is pulling in the opposite direction. The court order has potential to make Malawi a weak link in global efforts to fight COVID-19.”
The Government applauded the Immigration Department for acting diligently to protect Malawians from potential importation of COVID-19.
Over the weekend, Immigration Department‘s director general Masauko Medi told a news conference on Saturday that they have instructed its lawyers to vacate the order by the Judge and challenge it at the court.
Meanwhile, Botomani added in the statement that Government applauds various sector players who have heeded measures introduced to protect Malawians and the rest of the world from the outbreak.
“We find it unfortunate that of all the players, it should be the Judiciary that chooses to put the lives of millions at a potential risk, especially at a time players in different sectors have complied with Government’s guidance in COVID-19 prevention.
“Government, therefore, joins the many voices that have spoken against the court order. Government would like to ask Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda to join the efforts in in the fight against Covid-19, instead of being an enemy of the efforts.
Going forward, it is the the expectation of the Government that the Judiciary will play its role in protecting Malawians and the rest of the world from the devastating Covid-19.
According to reports, this not the first time Judge Nyirenda has courted controversial court determinations.
Among them is a ruling in favour of government to proceed with the controversial sale of State-owned Malawi Savings Bank and he also ordered in 2014 the release of results at night of the country’s disputed presidential elections and refused a recount.
The present court order that has put the judiciary on spot over controversial orders obtained for Wilkinson & Associates was done in Lilongwe forcing the Immigration Department to remove the four from quarantine at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) and allow them entry into the country.
The injunction was granted without hearing from Medi, the Immigration Department’s director general nor the Attorney General as first and second respondents respectively.
The injunction stated that it was valid up to March 26, the same day an inter partes hearing will be held on the case.
Interestingly, China — the nation that infested the world with Coronavirus — is enforcing a 14-day quarantine on all international travellers arriving into that country, and almost all countries, including Malawi, are following suit.
President Peter Mutharika on Friday declared a State of Disaster with new measures which include a travel ban for foreign nationals from countries highly affected by the Coronavirus.
The Coronavirus was first reported in the city of Wuhan in China on December 31 last year and within the past three months, the virus has spread at a fast rate in Europe, Canada, the United States and into Africa.