Ambassador Palmer July 4 Speech

On July 4, the US Embassy celebrated the United States’ 239th independence anniversary at a function which took place at the Chief of Mission’s residence.  In her remarks, U.S. Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, while celebrating the cordial relations that have existed between Malawi and the U.S. for many years, urged the Malawi government to ensure that the plans outlined in the public service agenda are fully implemented.  Ambassador Palmer said, there needs to be, as Malawi’s President and Vice President have said, a change in mind set, so that the government serves its people, stays within its budget, and delivers the prosperity Malawians so richly deserve.  Read the full speech.

  • Our Guest of Honor, Honorable Dr. George Chaponda MP,

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,

  • Speaker of the National Assembly Right Honorable Richard Msowoya,
  • Your Lordship Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda
  • Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
  • Honorable Lazarus Chakwera Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and Leaders of other Political Parties here present,
  • The Chief Secretary to the Government Mr. George Mkondiwa and all Senior Government officials here present,
  • Your Excellency Madam Tandiwe Dumbutshena Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of the Republic of Zimbabwe and diplomatic colleagues
  • Honorable Members of Parliament
  • Your Worship Councilor Willy Chapondera  Mayor of the City of Lilongwe
  • Friends
  • If I’ve failed to mention you – I apologize sincerely and I will protocol you when I observe you!

And please at the top, let me “protocol” the U.S.-affiliated companies who made generous contributions to today’s festivities.  A really sincere thank you to:

  • Carlsberg Malawi Limited (Coca-Cola)
  • Central Plastic Manufacturers and UNIFAB Textiles
  • Namadzi Bottler Limited
  • Deloitte
  • Gestetner, RICOH, and NCR, and
  • Monsanto

For answering the call when I came to you with my tin cup out soon after I arrived in Malawi.Ismail, Nadia and I are delighted to welcome you home for our first Fourth of July in Malawi.  We decided to try to make this as much like a Fourth of July in America as we could – minus the fireworks.  I was cocky with the PS for Foreign Affairs James Ali when there was a fireworks display at the launching of Public Sector Reform program.  I said to him “Oh, we do that for the Fourth of July in the U.S.  I can outdo this.”  Then the display went on and on and I sidled up to him and took it back, knowing I couldn’t top that.  But we’ve tried to replicate the spirit of a Fourth of July picnic in the U.S.  I wanted to have three-legged races and sack races, but my Deputy, Mike whom you all know for his leadership of the Embassy for many months as Chargé last year,  said you might not be prepared for that ……… next year!

For Americans the Fourth of July isn’t a formal occasion.  We spend it in our shorts reflecting on the freedoms we enjoy and the sacrifices made to protect them.  It’s a fun day for parades and picnics, and a little bit of “soapboxing-” speech making.  In our parades in America, we tend to highlight public servants who perform vital services and keep us safe: police, fire fighters, and civic leaders setting an example in their communities.  And we have those folks here in Malawi too, people like

  • Lukas Kondowe, the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau;
  • Director of Public Prosecutions Mary Kachale;
  • Thom Mpinganjira, Seodi White, Krishna Savjani and other members of the Public Service Reform Commission;
  • Clement Kumbemba from MITC;

and so many more impressive Malawians here today who work hard – often at great personal sacrifice – to make Malawi better.  I want to add Finance Minister Gondwe and the ST Ronald Mangani and their colleagues in the OPC to that list for the very important and very difficult work they’re doing on Public Sector and Public Financial Management reform.

On the Fourth of July, amidst much beer drinking, Americans reflect on the words of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, documents that laid out a vision for a new nation, “to establish justice, to insure domestic tranquility, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of liberty and prosperity.”  And we remember that those things didn’t magically happen with the signing of those important documents; we must constantly strive to achieve them through things like a tumultuous civil rights movement or historic Supreme Court rulings like the one last week.  Each day, I am reminded that those basic objectives – justice, tranquility, liberty, and prosperity – are also the goals of the people of Malawi.  So I hope today can be a celebration of our common purpose and the work we do together to achieve it.

But, because this is supposed to be a fun occasion, I’m not going to spend a lot of time making the traditional recitation of all the U.S. activities and assistance programs in Malawi.  I am not going to talk about the 113 billion Kwacha in U.S. assistance invested in Malawi this year.  I won’t go on about the half a million Malawians receiving anti-retroviral therapy through U.S. support, or the 7 million malaria treatments that we distributed.  I am not going to talk about the quarter of a million farmers trained in agricultural skills, the $157 million in electricity infrastructure contracts we’re signing this year, or even about the 11,000 teachers whom we have trained on improved reading techniques.  I do hope you’ll learn about them from Embassy staff because they are things we are very committed to and proud of.  And I hope you’ll take a few minutes with your drink or your hot dog and walk around the exhibits in the tents to my right that will give you a flavor of the things we’re working on here, from early grade reading to crop diversification to power sector reform.

And of course the U.S.-Malawi partnership ranges well beyond the development partnership.  I just met with our Global AIDS Coordinator, who raved that Malawi’s implementation of Option B+ treatment regimen for expectant mothers helped her convince the WHO to change its standards.  Malawi literally led the world and is on track to do so again by becoming the first country in the world to adopt a Universal Test and Treat policy for those who are HIV-positive.  The U.S. and Malawi are working together on regional and international issues, including international peacekeeping and wildlife conservation, for which His Excellency President Mutharika was honored as a Champion at the International Congressional Conservation Foundation in Washington in April.  I’m sure that Minister Gondwe or the ST would be happy to introduce you to the budget advisor from the U.S. Department of Treasury who is working in their ministry; and General Maulana can tell you about the MDF’s Sergeants Major academy, founded in collaboration with mentors from the U.S. military, which will train non-commissioned officers from across SADC.

Many of you here today met last month with the first delegation from the U.S. Congress to visit Malawi in nearly 30 years, and then just a week later with the biggest U.S. trade delegation to visit Malawi in years.  I hope you’ll have conversations here today about the themes of those visits — women in development and investment opportunities in Malawi’s power sector.  These are just a few of the hundreds of other examples of the strong and dynamic partnership that the United States and Malawi enjoy.

This has been a big year in Malawi.  Recovering from the worst floods in Malawi’s history and still reeling from the aftermath of the Cashgate scandals, the President launched the Public Sector Reform program.  Parliament passed, and the President assented to, the long-awaited Marriage and Trafficking in Persons Acts. There has been proactive outreach to investors, foreign and domestic, a robust Public Financial Management Action Plan, and tangible actions to fight corruption.  Malawi is at a critical juncture.  There needs to be, as the President and Vice President have said, a change in mind set, so that the government serves its people, stays within its budget, and delivers the prosperity Malawians so richly deserve.

It’s now about delivering on that promise.   If changes aren’t fully implemented; unless there is a radical overhaul of thinking, attitude and delivery; unless there is greater budgetary discipline and financial oversight not just at the national but also at the district level; Malawi will keep reeling from crises, whether caused by climate change or illegal deforestation or corruption.  We will be assisting with flood relief when we should be celebrating record breaking exports.   But I’m a believer.  I think we will be celebrating positive changes, more trade and more investment.

There is action that can be taken now. We look at the parliamentary order paper and ask: where are the new laws that show government’s promise of “never again” is a serious one?  We look at the flat budgets of accountability institutions and ask whether the pursuit of past and present corruption is really being intensified.  Where are the seized assets?  What are the consequences of bad audits?  Who’s getting fired?

This isn’t just government’s job.  We need to be hearing from civil society, the public and the Malawian press about what you think Public Sector Reform should mean.  What does it mean in your rural clinic, at your office, for getting your business started? And so, to our friends Gospel Kazako, Habiba Osman, Gift Trapence, John Kapito, Simon Itaye, and all other advocates, agitators, and activists, who have demonstrated their commitment to serving the Malawian people and holding government to the same standard, Woyee!  Malawi needs you.

I’m going to come down off my soapbox – I did mention that a little of that is also part of our Fourth of July picnic tradition, but I want to end by saying that I’m so happy to be in Malawi at this important moment in your history.  I am committed with my mission here to help you achieve the critical reforms you’ve begun; to spur growth in agriculture and manufacturing, power and tourism.  And I believe we’ll all be able to say, “I lived in Malawi when it turned a critical corner.”

So please join me in raising a glass to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Malawi Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, to the U.S.-Malawi partnership, and to the prosperous future of all Malawians.

Zikomo kwamberi!

We would like to thank everyone who have made this occasion possible and again thank supporting businesses for their generous contributions.

Guest of Honor Honorable Dr. George Chaponda, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen; this ends the formal part of the party.  Please grab a burger.  Have some cotton candy and American apple pie.  Have your picture taken beside President Obama or in front of the Statue of Liberty or the White House up on the verandah.

Thank you and enjoy the party!