Parliament Oath Revision is Possible: Thein Sein

The NLD expect to enter Parliament within 10 days.(Photo: Irrawaddy)

Rangoon—Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party refused to take its new seats in Parliament on Monday because of a dispute over one word in the lawmakers’ oath, but party officials said the issue would be overcome soon and the Southeast Asian nation’s president also said a revision was possible.

The National League for Democracy party objects to phrasing in the oath that says they must “safeguard the Constitution,” a document they have vowed to amend because it gives inordinate power to the military and was drafted during an era of army rule. The lawmakers want the word “safeguard” replaced with “respect.”

If not dealt with soon, the issue could potentially derail a fragile detente between the military-backed ruling party and Suu Kyi’s opposition movement. Analysts say President Thein Sein needs the opposition in Parliament to show the world that his administration is serious about change in the Southeast Asian country, which was ruled by the military for nearly half-a-century.

Speaking on a state visit to Tokyo, Thein Sein told reporters he was open to discuss changes to the oath. “It is possible to make a revision if it serves the public’s interest,” he said.

Thein Sein added that Suu Kyi was welcome in Parliament, but “she is the one who should decide whether to join.”

Since last year, Thein Sein’s government has overseen a wave of widely praised political reforms, including the April 1 by-elections that earned Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi a parliamentary seat after years of repression and house arrest.

Later Monday, the European Union is expected to announce the suspension of most sanctions against Burma for a year while it assesses the country’s progress toward democracy. The United States and other countries also have pulled back on some sanctions.

Suu Kyi and 42 other elected lawmakers from her party were absent as the latest assembly session got under way in the capital, Naypyidaw, on Monday. The party had said it would not join until the oath issue was resolved.

Opposition spokesman Nyan Win told The Associated Press that he believed the dispute would be solved within 10 days, and other party officials have said there is support within Thein Sein’s government to change the oath.

The party was “not disappointed” with its current inability to sit in the assembly, Nyan Win said. “We are cooperating with the government, so the problem will be overcome.”

The oath is in an appendix to the military-backed Constitution, and it is unclear whether it can be changed without the approval of 75 percent of Parliament. The subject was not on the agenda in Naypyidaw on Monday.

Phyo Min Thein, one of the opposition’s newly elected lawmakers, said the party is pressing the issue because changing even an appendix to the constitution would be significant and highly symbolic.

“We want them to change the wording because it will show people that the 2008 Constitution can be changed,” he said. “That’s the point.”

Similar phrasing was changed in the party registration law last year, a move that opened the way for Suu Kyi’s party to rejoin politics after it boycotted the 2010 vote in which Thein Sein was elected.

The Constitution automatically allocates 25 percent of the parliamentary seats to unelected representatives of the military, and Suu Kyi’s party maintains that is undemocratic.

The document also bars people from the nation’s presidency if they or any of their relatives are foreign citizens. That effectively prevents Suu Kyi from ascending to the presidency because she is the widow of a British national, Michael Aris, and their two children were born abroad and do not live in Burma.

The by-election’s outcome, in which the opposition won almost all of the 45 seats up for grabs, was considered a major step toward reconciliation after decades of military rule in Burma, officially known as Myanmar.

The party will have little power in the military and ruling-party dominated legislature even when it does enter, but the overwhelming poll victory could set the stage for a major sweep during the next general vote in 2015.

“The question is whether or not the government will accept the result,” Phyo Min Thein said.


10 Responses to Parliament Oath Revision is Possible: Thein Sein

  1. Trap is a trap,
    Hopefully NLD will avoid the Military’s trap.

  2. George Than Setkyar Heine

    This should be the case in the first place.
    This time Thein Sein showed a semblance of cleverness in this deal no doubt.
    Of course, Daw Suu OUT of the parliament is MORE DANGEROUS and UNFRUITFUL FOR HIM he knew.
    Hence, he needs to keep her CORRALLED in his parliament for the time being.
    And that would RENDER HIM CONSIDERABLE LEGITIMACY and LEGALITY to his puppet rule least of all.
    It is only a BIT OF HORSE TRADING – bargaining – on the part of Than Shwe/Thein Sein to PUT IT SIMPLY.
    After all POLITICS is a GAME of GIVE and TAKE lest you guys forget.

  3. We all have already expected that the government is going to negotiate what NLD wants because its desire is of the public although some think that NLD should not take regard is such a silly thing. Really it is not a little thing it is a great big thing as it will investigate the government, whether they wants changes really or not.

  4. This much is clear: the constitution wasn’t written in stone. That means you can amend it even if you take a vow to “safeguard” or protect it.

    It’s just that you have to muster 20% of all representatives to propose an amendment in a parliamentary bill, and more than 75% of them to approve it. That’s a solid wall that the NLD could never hope to breach.

    Just one more point:
    Quote: “The question is whether or not the government will accept the result,” Phyo Min Thein said.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath!

    • What a childish act! Magna Carta of King John, 1215, was for baronial rights , not for the rights of the peasants. Nevertheless, it was the very first step to democracy.

      Oliver Cromwell, military dictator and parliamentarian actually ushered in democracy in Britain as we know it today. Looking out of the window at the corner of the Banqueting Room he watched King Charles I beheaded.

      At the Russian Summer Ball, HM King Shwebomin of Burma stood at the same place as Oliver Cromwell visualised how it must have been.
      No, stop it. King Shwebomin is NOT king Charles I, quite the opposite; with the ideal of democracy.

      We have been told HM Shwebomin II is most saddened by the behaviour of the NLD. It is inexplicable. How can change be brought about if they behave like that?

      We also have been told HM King Shwebomin was a very special guest at the dinner of the National Liberal Club to celebrate St. George’s Day. Professor Dixon, Master of Peter House, Cambridge University gave a most illuminating and informative talk. What a coincidence. The architect Joh Outram, who designed the Judge Institute of Management of Cambridge University is a friend of HM. the bastard Thibaw was housed in the house called Outram House in Ratnagiri, in India, where he died. Good riddance. He never was blood royal.

      U Thein-Nyunt, Former NLD member, political prisoner, and founder of the New National Democracy Party, who had said said he expected to see the NLD leaders with whom he has worked since 1990, and also some young young leaders who had very good prospects to do good work for the country, but it did not happened said he worried NLD decision could harm voter confidence.

      Trevor Wilson, visiting fellow at Australia national University pointed out that the NLD had previously objected to the wording of the oath as it appeared in the election law, WHICH WAS CHANGED BY THE GOVERNMENT and the parliament so that the NLD could participate in the by-election.

      “.. they, NLD, DON’T seem to have ACKNOWLEDGED that there is a LEGAL PROCESS that has to be negotiated with the parliament about the changing the oath of office as there would be with ANY parliament.”

      So this is the crux of the matter. Has SuuKyi Aris lost her marbles? Or is she being dicated by NLD?

      We have been informed that she would be invited as a guest of honour in London by the authority of His Majesty, who does not mind Burma being called Republic of the Union of Burma whereas it should be United Kingdom of Burma or simply Kingdom of Burma, like Kingdom of Siam or Kingdom of Cambodia, formerly a most vicious communist country.

      “Wilson suggested that the NLD might have to take a more conciliatory approach, to build a coalition in parliament that cna pass reforms” – FOR CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY and to restore the greatness of Burma.

      We need peace. We must have peace to create one people, one nation, one state of Burma. Then we can progress in leaps and bounds.

      We cannot understand what game the NLD is playing. Let the interest of the people of Burma come first.

  5. I believe NLD and Western Countries are already already caught with the trap. Thein Sein is quiet and discontinue what he discussed with Daw Suu.

  6. Thein Sein government is starting to show their true color …. which is dark black. We will learn their dirty tricks soon enough. Just wait.

  7. NLD has fallen into the same trap like on May 30, 1990. Giddy with the euphoria of a landslide sweep of the by-election, the leadership did not realize the blunder of not “correcting” the OATH wording at the time of officially registering the party to participate in the bi-elections. They could not resist the temptation to challenge and ask for the change in a “confrontational” manner.

    This attitude shocked many inside and outside of Myanmar especially the supporters of Suu Kyi. A sober and rational approach from her was expected but apparently “those around her” took control of the bad
    situation and made it worse. A similar thing happened in on 30
    May 1990.Every NLD leader was making statements quite freely, many were confrontational to SLORC, personal intimidation to senior members of SLORC, and the measures that the new NLD government would immediately institute against the ilegitimate Military Government.

    This time around, the tone was a bit subdued, but the perception to the government leaders, especially the 25% of the Military in Parliament, the intent was the same – to ultimately remove them from politics. To embark on this formidable task this EARLY IN THE GAME is truly foolish, illtimed and frought with risks to the Country and people of Myanmar. But Thein Sein and those reformers around him have kept their cool and one must trust that the response will not impede the progress achieved so far.

    Shwe Thaung
    [email protected]

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