A proposed Bill by Malawi government to change the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) into a National Intelligence Service (NIS) has been gazetted in readiness to be tabled in Parliament as it will give the spy agency powers to obtain warrants of arrest and detention on citizens.
Solicitor General Dr Janet Banda confirmed that the National Intelligence Servcie Bill was gazetted on May 26 2017.
The Bill seeks to ouline duties, functions ad powers of NIS, in addition to regulating its operations.
Banda, who is also Principal Secretary in the Ministry fo Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said government is “ready to table it” in Parliament.
Accoridng to the proposed Bill, head of the new State spy agency will have powers to apply from the magistrate court a warrant enable the intelligence body “performing if its functions.”
The key functions and duties of the NIS will, among others, include gathering evaluating, correlating, interpreting, investigating disseminating and storing information for detecting and identifying of threats to the security of the nation.
If granted by the courts, the warrant will give the spy agency authority to enter any place or obtain access to anything and search for or remove, examine or record in any manner the information, material, record or document.
But the main opposition party, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), has threatened to torpedo the bill when it is brought before Parliament because the NIB is duplicating other existing security bodies.
Joseph Njovuyalema, an MCP veteran lawmaker, says although he has not seen the bill, the establishment of the institution as a standalone entity would compromise the Criminal Investigation Department of the Malawi Police Service (MPS) which, he claimed, has the same mandate as NIS
“This is just a duplication of intelligence services in the country. If the bill comes for discussion before Parliament, Malawi Congress Party will not support it,” Njobvuyalema, a former police officer, said.
Critics argue that the spy agency cannot be equated with the intelligence roles of the military and the police as these two institutions serve different interests.
The Bill further says the bureau shall provide an advisory role to the President on security issues once the proposed bill is enacted. The law will also give the director powers to arrest anyone deemed under reasonable grounds to be a threat to national security.
It will also help with vetting investigations for persons who hold or may hold posts that require higher levels of scrutiny; for example those whose appointment is subject to formal security clearance or those who may have access to sensitive or classified.
NIB was established by the United Democratic Front (UDF) government in 2000 under the Office of the President and Cabinet to replace the Special Branch, which was an arm of the Malawi Police Service notorious during MCP’s rule for targeting the party’s political enemies.
The current director of NIB is former policeman Elvis Thodi. He was a former Chief Immigration Officer and worked at Malawi Revenue Authority before being appointed Malawi chief spy.
Source : Nyasa Times