Departing Speaker Shwe Mann Signs Off in Capital

By The Irrawaddy 29 January 2016

NAYPYIDAW — Outgoing Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann gave a final press conference in Naypyidaw on Friday, signing off by offering few hints about what the future might hold for him, but making clear that he is open to taking a role in the incoming government, if asked.

“For the time being, I am not supposed to say which position I want to take or which position I have been assigned,” he told reporters after a closing joint session of Parliament convened for the final time on Friday. “As I have lost [the election], if I ask for a position, it would be unprincipled. Therefore, I would not ask and would not say what I want to do.”

Shwe Mann was more forthcoming on questions regarding his role behind the scenes in the post-election period, telling reporters that he helped broker the unexpected meeting between ex-dictator Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi in early December.

“Although he is no longer in power, U Than Shwe is still influential to some extent. So I arranged a meeting for them for the good of the country and the people,” Shwe Mann said.

During his speakership, Shwe Mann developed cordial ties with Suu Kyi, voicing support for the National League for Democracy chairwoman’s efforts to amend Article 59(f) of the Constitution which effectively bars her from the presidency.

On Friday, the outgoing speaker also expressed approval of the NLD’s nomination of ethnic Kachin T Khun Myat, a sitting USDP lawmaker, for the post of Lower House deputy speaker.

“Taking a look at his personal history, he is dutiful and has accomplished [many] assignments,” Shwe Mann said, recounting the lawmaker’s efforts at promoting ethnic rights and his time served as an officer in the Attorney-General’s Office.

The NLD’s selection of T Khun Myat has however raised eyebrows among many observers, with the USDP member accused in a series of investigative reports of involvement in the narcotics trade and ties to a government-allied militia in his Kutkai constituency in northern Shan State.

During Shwe Mann’s five-year term in the Parliament, a total of 13 sessions were held, with 229 laws passed, including a controversial package known as the Race and Religion Protection Laws.

On Friday, the speaker hinted that his willingness to serve, in some capacity, was undiminished.

“Please make good use of me,” he told the media pack in Naypyidaw. “I’ll try my best for the country and the people.”

The Irrawaddy’s Moe Myint reported from Naypyidaw.