Interview

Bill Committee Chairman: ‘I Would Like to Change Outdated Laws’

By Htun Htun 9 February 2016

Tun Tun Hein, of the National League for Democracy (NLD), was appointed head of the Lower House’s Bill Committee last week. Already a member of the NLD’s central executive committee and the voter list reviewing committee, the 66-year-old MP representing Nawnghkio Township in Shan State is lauded as an expert on legal issues. He spoke with The Irrawaddy’s Htun Htun about his plans to change and propose laws within Parliament.

What preparations have you made to take the helm of the bill committee?

Since I became a Lower House lawmaker, I have talked about my stance: I would like to change outdated laws, enact necessary laws for national development and change the constitution. After I was appointed head of the bill committee, I met the former committee members, mostly to review the draft laws they had submitted. I checked the process and found that we can recommend or draft and submit the laws we want. We have to take cues from the former bill committee and then think about how we can do better.

Which outdated laws will you prioritize changing?

There are many outdated laws, from the time of Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League, Burma’s Socialist Program Party, to the State Law and Order Restoration Council and the State Peace and Development Council. I learned that around 229 laws were enacted over the past five years, so it would be quite difficult to review all the laws. As the first step, we will divide up that responsibility.

There are draft laws which the previous bill committee could not pass. What will you do regarding those laws?

Yes, there are 23 remaining laws to be passed. We have yet to discuss in which stages they are in before proceeding with them.

What steps have you taken for constitutional amendments?

The NLD wants to amend 168 provisions in the Constitution. We have yet to discuss if we can amend all of them and to which provisions we should give priority. The bill committee alone can’t handle this. But then again, it would not be [totally] impossible to change all of them.

What is your view as the chair of the bill committee on suspension of Article 59(f)?

There are different views among the general public and legal experts. The 2008 Constitution itself does not provide for the suspension of a particular provision. However, in the country’s history, the 1947 Constitution was suspended for a while, from 1958-59, to form an interim government. Citing this, some argue that that clause can be suspended. But, some are against it, warning that it will lead to frequent demands for [constitutional] amendment unnecessarily in the future. I have no comment on those views. In our view, it is inappropriate if Article 59(f) is targeted at a particular person. A law should be concerned with the entire country; if it concerns only a particular person, it is not a law.

I heard that the NLD will submit a proposal to suspend Article 59(f) in the parliament? When?

I don’t know which NLD member said that. I don’t know yet if the proposal will be submitted.

Have you held negotiations with the military to amend constitutional provisions related to them?

It is undeniable that the military plays an important role. We just can’t do as the people and our party wish overnight. We have to negotiate and we need to build trust, which takes time. The possibility is faint that over 75 percent of the Parliament will vote in favor of changing the Constitution. But it is not that it is impossible. It is a question of how we might need to bargain and make compromises. Though the military says it would not change provisions [for itself] at present, it does not mean that it will never change. It needs to be changed peacefully for the sake of the country.

The NLD has appointed military representatives to the parliamentary affairs committees. Is this part of a compromise?

We do not have such attitude that our party alone can handle rebuilding the nation. We have to collaborate with everyone in the interest of the country. Everyone is valuable. I don’t want to use the term ‘national reconciliation.’ There are small differences between us. We have to accept the reality that there are differences between us; only then can we make conciliatory moves. National reconciliation is important and we have to work with others.

The NLD has appointed Shwe Mann as the head of the legal affairs and special cases assessment commission and most of the members are former lawmakers from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Why?

We can’t be well versed in every field. For example, we do not know as much about energy as someone in the field. Suppose a bill on energy is submitted, we have to seek the views of the experts. We need people who can give professional advice. All 23 members of the commission are experts in their related fields.

There has been criticism that the NLD has deliberately appointed those who are close to Shwe Mann to the commission.

Let them say that. I have no comment about the criticism. If we can get experience and advice from them, it is an advantage for us. For example, it would be better for our country if we could make use of the experience of the former bill committee. We have to start from the very beginning if we don’t utilize their experience just because they are from the USDP. We’ll seek their experiences and help. If it needs to be, the commission can be expanded.

Will significant members of the former cabinet, like Aung Min, the peace negotiator from the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), be appointed to the NLD government?

Minister U Aung Min assumes lots of responsibilities in the MPC. We need to seek help from them for peace building. They might be appointed within an NLD government. However, this is just my view and I am not in a position to make a decision regarding this.

The former bill committee was criticized as passing laws contradictory to one another. What will you do about these laws?

Yes, they were. For example, the law about the election of a ward or village administrator states that their terms are equal to that of the Parliament, but the bylaws say that their terms are the same as that of the government. We have to review them.

Do you have any further comments?

I will fulfill my duties to the best of my ability with a commitment to serve the country.

Translated by Thet Ko Ko.

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