Cancellation of Parliamentary Session Postpones Questions to Government

By San Yamin Aung 9 March 2016

RANGOON — The cancellation of Wednesday’s Lower House parliamentary session has delayed the scheduled discussion of two proposals examining the outgoing government’s performance.

During Tuesday’s session, Lower House speaker Win Myint announced that proceedings would continue on Wednesday, but the MPs were informed that evening that the following day’s session was in fact called off.

Khin San Hlaing, a Lower House lawmaker from the National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy that the notification did not mention the cause of the cancellation. However, according to the established agenda, Ba Shein of the Arakan National Party (ANP) and Sai Thiha Kyaw of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) had planned to question the Thein Sein administration on issues of transportation and development.

Ba Shein was going to inquire whether the government had a plan to re-work ferry routes through the Inland Water Transport Department in Sittwe, the Arakan State capital. Sai Thiha Kyaw’s proposal concerned the status of a reservoir project in Shan State’s Mongyai Township, the construction of which locals have reportedly been waiting on for three years, in the hopes that it will serve as a water source for consumption and agriculture.

“The government officials wouldn’t attend the Parliament to respond to the questions even if [the MPs] ask them,” said Khin San Hlaing. “So it is good to take a break from the parliamentary session instead of asking questions which won’t get answers.”

Khin San Hlaing submitted an urgent proposal to the Lower House of Parliament on Feb 25 calling on the outgoing government to scrutinize permissions to sell or lease state-owned facilities and projects to private companies. She also criticized the forced removal of squatters on land affected by such transactions.

Government officials did not appear before Parliament though they were invited to respond to the allegations.

Burma’s information minister, Ye Htut, defended the officials’ absence from Parliament, saying that the government would answer directly to citizens.

“Whether the incumbent Union government should be accountable to the second Parliament is an issue to be reviewed according to the Constitution,” he said.

Legislative sessions for both the Lower and Upper houses will resume on Thursday, when the presidential nominees are scheduled to be declared.

“I think it may be because they need to prepare for tomorrow’s [vice presidential nominations],” Sai Thiha Kyaw said of the cancellation.

He said that he expects that he will have to send his questions directly to the government, who will be obligated to reply even if they do not appear in Parliament.