NAYPYITAW—The Arakan National Party (ANP) on Monday proposed abolishing the National Defense and Security Council(NDSC) at a meeting of the joint committee to draft amendments to the 2008 Constitution.
The aim of the proposal is to grant the President greater power, said the ANP’s U Aung Kyaw Zan, who attended the meeting.
“The abolition would give the [council’s] powers to the President. If there is a need to discuss security and defense matters, the President could summon the concerned agencies; there wouldn’t be a designated defense and security council. The President would be the top leader of the country,” U Aung Kyaw Zan told reporters.
In line with its recommendation, the ANP submitted a proposal to scrap Article 201 of the Constitution, which provides for the establishment of the NDSC, an 11-member body established in March 2011 with responsibility for security and defense affairs in Myanmar.
The Army chief appoints five of the council’s members and controls six votes, as the council comprises the president, Myanmar army chief, two vice presidents, foreign affairs minister, the speakers of the upper and lower houses of the Union Parliament, the deputy military chief and the military-appointed ministers of home affairs, defense and border affairs.
At Monday’s meeting, some committee members suggested axing the seats held by the three ministries controlled by the Myanmar Army. Some suggested creating one more seat to be held by the ethnic affairs minister.
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) proposed creating two more seats to be held by the deputy speakers of the two houses of Parliament with the purpose of strengthening civilian representation on the council, a committee member told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity.
“Our discussion of the provisions in the opening chapters [of the 2008 Constitution] is not aimed at driving the Tatmadaw out of Parliament once and for all. We will go bit by bit. As the NDSC is connected with the earlier provisions, we won’t do it recklessly,” he said.
While the NLD prefers a gradual reduction in the military presence in Parliament, the ANP last month proposed removing the military-appointed lawmakers in one fell swoop.
“We think there should be no permanent defense and security body. We would prefer that the President exercise [his or her] power and coordinate with concerned ministries and departments to decide military and security issues,” U Aung Kyaw Zan said.
The NLD-led government, which took office in 2016, has yet to convene an official NDSC meeting. It has only held two high-level meetings that were attended by key members of the NDSC to discuss the Rakhine issue.
The NLD-led government seems to have avoided calling NDSC meetings because it does not want to officially acknowledge the role granted to the Myanmar Amy by the 2008 Constitution, said Institute for Strategy and Policy director U Aung Thu Nyein.
“I think the Tatmadaw created the NDSC as a platform to discuss political and security issues. The NDSC is important to the Tatmadaw. In my view, the platform for discussion will be lost if it is abolished completely,” he said.
The NDSC is constitutionally empowered to recommend candidates for a presidential pardon, approve the President’s decision to sever diplomatic relations with a country, approve the President’s nomination for commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw, and coordinate with the President in declaring a state of emergency.
The 45-member committee to draft amendments to the 2008 Constitution, which was established in February over the opposition of the Union Solidarity and Development Party and the military, resumed meeting on Monday. It has so far discussed 235 provisions in the first five chapters of the Constitution.