Nine Judges Quit in Constitution Tribunal Row

The homepage of the Myanmar Constitutional Tribunal’s website.

RANGOON, Burma—All nine judges on Burma’s Constitution Tribunal abruptly resigned on Thursday after the Lower House of Parliament voted to impeach them in a standoff within the country’s nascent quasi-civilian government.

The resignations were announced by President Thein Sein’s office, state television reported on Thursday night, after two-thirds of the Lower House had voted earlier in the day for the judges’ impeachment.

The dispute has been seen as demonstrating the maturation of Burma’s democracy, as well as reflecting jockeying for power within the ruling party.

“We had more than two-third of MPs vote to impeach them in accordance with the Constitution,” said Ba Shein, a Lower House MP for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party and a member of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission.

He told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that Constitutional Tribunal members never showed up for hearing at the investigation board, which was formed at the end of August after the Upper House also voted for impeachment proceedings.

Earlier this week, the tribunal judges objected to who sat on the inquiry board by alleging that members had signed the petition demanding the withdrawal of the tribunal’s decisions and their resignation, according to state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar.

The dispute over the tribunal began in March but the matter gained momentum after a Rule of Law Committee, headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was formed last month. MPs object to a tribunal decision reached in March that denied parliamentary committees the status of Union-level organizations.

According to the 2008 Constitution, the nine judges are appointed by the President and the speakers of Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament—three by each.

“We found this Constitutional Tribunal cannot work in a democratic way. This is why we asked for them to withdraw even though we did not want to do it,” Pe Than, a Lower House MP for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, told The Irrawaddy.

“If they have power above Parliament, there will be no one who can control the government. We are worried that there will be no checks and balances on the government, and the government may act similar to the last the military regime,” he added.

MPs said that the Constitutional Tribunal did not want to be on the the same level as MPs as the judges did not want to be controlled by Parliament.

“We are asking them to recognize us on the same level as the Union position as we want to have the power to scrutinize their conduct,” said Pe Than.

Thein Sein recently reshuffled his cabinet in what was widely considered an effort to consolidate power after initially coming to office in March 2011. He is a former general and his government is dominated by members of the military, which had ruled the country since a 1962 coup d’etat.

However, members of his own ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party led the effort against the tribunal he appointed, and the opposition was spearheaded by his former army colleague Shwe Mann, speaker of the Lower House. Thein Sein was prime minister in the former military regime, and Shwe Mann the third-ranking member of its ruling junta.

The tribunal itself was also headed by a former military general. Lawmakers had been angered that the tribunal had not granted its committees and commissions the legal status they sought. The duties of the tribunal, whose members were nominated by the president and two speakers of Parliament, are to interpret the Constitution and rule if laws conform to it.

Shwe Mann had said the decision not to designate parliamentary bodies as state-level entities affected the ability of the lawmakers to carry out their work and harmed their reputations. Some 301 Lower House MPs, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, signed a petition to impeach the tribunal because of its alleged incompetence in discharging its duties.

Thein Sein had urged Parliament to resolve the dispute by amending the Constitution rather than impeaching the tribunal members.

The new Constitutional Tribunal will be formed during the next session of Parliament, according to MPs. However, it is not yet clear how the ongoing dispute regarding the status of parliamentary committees will be resolved.

The Irrawaddy reporters Nyein Nyein and Lawi Weng contributed to this article.

6 Responses to Nine Judges Quit in Constitution Tribunal Row

  1. If the Constitution itself contradicts, it must be amended first. Other than that the same problem can go on and on.

  2. I hope they choose respectable and capable people not ex generals like Thein Soe who was responsible for the 2010 election mess.

  3. It is a bit ‘cart before the horse’ to chuck out a bunch of rubber stamp judges, who will only be replaced by a new set of yes men [ I’m sure none of these judges is a woman without even checking]. What about a good old fashioned constitutional referendum first with the military offered the position of ‘Armed Forces of the Union of Burma’ [ see how I compromised there?] instead of Armed Thugs in control of Everything and Then Some. That Rule of Law Commission is going to have its hands full.

  4. It is not a bad omen for us and not good enough issue of contradiction in law makers and law making .

    We respect the status and also the mean of the committees and commissions which are constituency by MPs.

  5. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Why don’t Shwe Mann lead in AMENDING much preferably ABOLISHING of Than Shwe’s constitution in place and in the first place as well?
    Than Shwe’s handpicked judges know only to NOD their HEADS at their MASTER’S BIDDING folks.
    They are just WATER SNAKES (poisonless) compared to Min Aung Hlaing holding the helm of the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) EMBEDDED in the constitution for any EMERGENCY/URGENCY threatening the Naypyidaw, thieves and rogues calling the place their home today.
    China’s picked and Than Shwe’s chosen Min Aung Hlaing is the GUY at the HELM of the Naypyidaw while Thein Sein plays the FRONT/POINT man on that Than Shwe’s stage (parliament) at Naypyidaw.
    And Daw Suu and her people the so-called members of the opposition and others are merely no better/more than players on that stage managed, orchestrated, selected and directed by Than Shwe himself no less as well.
    The presence of his OFFICE presided by ranking major generals (Ne Win I think and others) and working for Than Shwe evidenced the fact, check it if you please.
    Of course Than Shwe is the point man in China’s game – hegemony of the region and eventually the world at large.
    The KIA/Kachins are on the run as Min Aung Hlaing’s mercenary forces are hounding them and now laying siege to Laiza, KIA stronghold today.
    Capitulation of Laiza would spell DOOM not only for KIA and the Kachins but also Burma as well in the near and future no less.
    Burma in the hands and under the helm of the communists in Beijing would be worst than North Korea lest Mitchell’s boss in the White House forgets.
    Than Shwe is COVERED (snout to tail and the ass in between as well) by China at the United Nations and UN Security Council as well since day one until today.
    The mass/monk murderer opened a small window/door for lesser freedoms with a view to hoodwink foreign investors into the country and in turn give him an opportune moment as well to LAUNDER his DIRTY LAUNDRY ( STOLEN/ILLEGAL WEATH and BLACK MONEY) and his CRONIES’ as well before Daw Suu’s RULE of LAW CATCHES UP WITH THE LOT trust me.
    And Mitchell promised the 8888 guys US investment and business in Burma would be a ROLE MODEL for others.
    This proved the fact Mitchell’s boss Obama is out to make a quick buck or two in Burma given he is cash strapped and his people are hungry and jobless as the result of pouring billions into his war efforts to stem the tide of the Islamic militants leaning heavily on him in Iraq and Afghanistan among many places on this earth.
    In that regard Obama’s best bet is to PRESS for CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS in Burma that would PAVE THE WAY for Daw Suu’s RULE of LAW to TAKE ROOT in Burma for the BETTER and in turn SERVE to RESTORE DEMOCRACY, FREEDOM and HUMAN RIGHTS in the country and for the people of Burma before EMBARKING on the COURSE of ACTION or THINKING TO SPLIT THE SPOILS/LOOT with the Chinese communists like today.
    And Obama’s TOP PRIORITY today is to TAME the Chinese dragon running wild on this planet and wreaking havoc in the region – South China Sea – and other places on this earth as well no less.
    Failing to do the job would culminate in the people of the US including Obama and his family as well among the people of all nations on this earth DANCING the Chinese Dragon Dance while XI JINPING if not HU JIN TAO and his communists comrades HOLD COURT in the WHITE HOUSE lest the US president forgets.

  6. There are also problems with most congressional(hluttaw) committees. They are chaired by undesirable ex-SPDC ministers/USDP MPs who got into the hluttaw in a crooked election with Thein Soe’s help.

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