‘I Don’t Need to Explain Myself’: Scandal-Hit Tenasserim Chief Minister

By Zue Zue 25 January 2019

YANGON—Tenasserim Region Chief Minister Daw Lei Lei Maw said she would not respond to a nepotism scandal surrounding her.

“I don’t need to explain myself. Time will tell. They [the government] can come and make an inspection, and if I have done something wrong, it will be revealed,” she told The Irrawaddy.

According to unconfirmed reports, the chief minister will be forced to resign for allegedly awarding business contracts to Global Grand Service (GGS) Company, which is reportedly owned by her relatives, and allegedly appointing a relative as her personal secretary, a paid government position.

The chief minister has denied that any of her relatives work for GGS Co.

“If I am asked to resign, I will. I would have to; that is standard procedure,” Daw Lei Lei Maw said. She was confident she would be able to clear her name, however.

Daw Lei Lei Maw said the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD)’s Central Executive Committee had not communicated with her regarding the allegations.

“My personal secretary is [an official] from the General Administration Department,” she said.

According to lawmakers in the regional parliament, Daw Lei Lei Maw appointed a daughter of U Aung Soe, a member of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee and the chairman of the NLD’s Tenasserim Region chapter, as her personal secretary when she took office. Daw Lei Lei Maw is U Aung Soe’s sister-in-law.

Daw Lei Lei Maw denied making any such official appointment. “I have not appointed her [to a position]. But sometimes, she helps me with some computer work in my office. She is just helping,” she told The Irrawaddy.

The President’s Office issued an order on April 1, 2016, barring Union ministers from appointing family members as their personal secretaries. According to the order, Union ministers must select from among departmental officials when appointing personal secretaries, in line with the rules and regulations for civil servants.

Though the rule could be strictly interpreted as not applying to local governments, Tenasserim regional parliament speaker U Khin Maung Aye said it applies to all government officials.

“Those who hold important positions should not appoint their relatives. Others might have a bad opinion of this. My understanding is that [the order] applies to all members of the government,” he said.

He confirmed that U Nay Myo Aung, the son-in-law of U Aung Soe, holds a senior position in GGS Co., which supplies electricity in Dawei District.

GGS Co. produces electricity from gas purchased from the government. The company owes over 8 billion kyats for gas supplied between July 2017, when it launched its power supply service, and late 2018.

He said the regional parliament has received complaints from locals about the chief minister and GGS Co. The parliament will take action in line with the relevant laws and regulations, he said.

NLD spokesperson Dr. Myo Nyunt told local media the party had also received complaints against the chief minister.

The scandal follows a separate controversy involving the Kachin chief minister. On Friday and Monday, Chief Minister U Khet Aung ordered three ministers to resign from their positions. The only explanation given for the move was that the instruction had come from State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.