Parliament Put on Hold as President Meets with Speakers

A day after holding talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s President Thein Sein met on Thursday with the speakers of both house of Parliament amid a growing dispute over a controversial decision by the country’s Constitutional Tribunal.

Although no details have been released about either meeting, it is widely believed that the president discussed recent moves by Parliament to force the tribunal from office. Today’s talks took place as both chambers of the national legislature were ordered to suspend the day’s proceedings.

Thein Sein’s meeting with Suu Kyi was his second in less than two weeks. The two leaders have met four times since since Thein Sein took office a year and a half ago. The last time was 10 days ago, when Suu Kyi was appointed chairperson of the newly formed Rule of Law and Stability Committee by Parliament.

Observers in Naypyidaw noted that the meetings follow Thein Sein’s decision earlier this week to reject demands to overturn a tribunal decision that denies parliamentary committees the status of “Union-level organizations.”

In response to the demands, the president said that lawmakers should move to amend the Constitution if they are not happy with the decision, instead of simply calling for the members of the tribunal to step down.

Under Burma’s military-back Constitution, amendments require the approval of 75 percent of MPs.

Meanwhile, MPs said they will initiate impeachment proceedings against the tribunal in accordance with the Constitution. “The Upper House parliamentarians will start a proposal for the impeachment on Friday,” said Phone Myint Aung, an Upper House MP from the New National Democracy Party.

To propose impeachment, the MPs need the backing of two-thirds of MPs. If the Upper House approves the proposal, it will pass to the Lower House, which can then form an inquiry committee to examine the Constitutional Tribunal.

However, Lower House MPs, who last week submitted a petition calling on the tribunal to voluntarily resign, say they don’t expect to get the support of the 25 percent of lawmakers appointed by the military, or from former generals who resigned from the armed forces to become civilian MPs.

Phay Than, a Lower House MP from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, told The Irrawaddy that they have already lost the votes of the military appointees “because they are not on our side.”

The petition was signed by 301 of the Lower House’s 440 members, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

7 Responses to Parliament Put on Hold as President Meets with Speakers

  1. Hey presto – out of the constitutional bag of dirty tricks comes a way, albeit twisted, to safeguard the military’s now indirect hold on power. The junta carefully rigged the electoral framework surrounding the 2010 national elections, which were neither free nor fair. Wake up – you are being conned by a bunch of gangsters.

  2. A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    The president U Thein Sein must have the courage to show his democratic principle by accepting the decision of parliament to fire 9 members of constitutional tribunal for their incompetence at their job due to their decision of interpreting a legislation of parliament that gives committees, set up by both the Lower and Upper houses, as “union-level” bodies as unconstitutional.

    The decision of constitutional tribunal, according to Deputy Speaker U Nanda Kyaw Swa, has clearly broken the constitutional laws: The Pyithu Hluttaw Law Section 2 (h), which defines these committees and commissions as Union level organizations; Union Attorney-General Law as well as the Union Auditor-General Law, which also prescribes the same provision.

    If the President didn’t overturn the decision of constitutional tribunal, the interpretation that action would effectively means that parliament could lose the right to scrutinize government entities which are deemed union-level, dampening legislative oversight of the executive.

    Burma desperately needs responsible government in its path to democracy; such government should be accountable to the parliaments with the ability of scrutinizing the jobs of government. Recent tribunal decision stripped that ability of parliament and it is undemocratic, calling the judgment of the President to be on the right side.

    This is a good opportunity for U Thein Sein to show how committed he is in the Rule of Law, good governance, and democracy in Burma. To prove that the President is a true reformist, he has to listen to the parliament by overturning a tribunal decision that denies parliamentary committees the status of “Union-level organizations.

    If not, impeachment will be imminent in the parliament, damaging competency of current Burmese government. The President of Burma should always try to make a decision based on consensus rather than by vote in the parliement. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi mentioned after her appointment as the head of a parliamentary committee on the Rule of Law and stability, that “Rule of law is not about control, but about protecting society. It is not too late for the President U Thein Sein to listen to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and members of Parliament to protect the infancy of Burma democracy by encouraging 9 members of constitutional tribunal to resign from their jobs for their incompetency at work.

    A Burmese Freedom Fighter

  3. The constitution is to be clear. If it contradicts itself, the constitutional judges and the representatives will have to argue a lot. Executive branch vs judicial branch vs legislative branch will be a big big problem. We the people have to watch the fight. Well! We can’t help other than watch. Since the beginning it was not right. Because the right people did not draft our constitution. Than Shwe was the one who drafted the constitution. Than Shwe is the one we can blame.

  4. If telitary regime in Myanmar introduced civilian rule but 25% of it military personel, all military reps in parliament should wear civilian clothes like HTaih Pon inside parliament as Thein Sein himself. I can’t make out why Thein Sein and Shwe Mann didn’t wear military uniform like thei colleagues who are from 25% military portion of seat in parliament although they are selected military reps too. Even Chinese have only one person in full military uniform inside the parliament in Beijing.

    There is something fishy going in this parliament. The Lower House have two houses and the upper have two houses.

  5. Could this the first time that the military MPs are demonstrating that their presence means something.

  6. The President has the rights to nominate these constitutional tribunal judges. But the approval must be from Hlutdaws. If President directly appointed them, it was terribly wrong. If the judges are incompetent, that is a huge problem. These judges need to be able to interpret the constitution rightly. Other than that how can they defend the constitution of the Union effectively? The constitution itself has many holes since it was drafted poorly by unelected people who were handpicked by Than Shwe. There will be endless rope-pulling between Judicial Branch, Executive Branch and Legislative Branch until there is a clear constitution.

  7. Burmese way to Democracy seems Monkey’s way to Democracy. When the persons who are running our country do not know how democratic society, they will just bring more messes in the Union and there can be more troubles. Unless we have the genuinely elected representatives in the Hlutdaws, our nation goes nowhere near to democracy.

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