Elected YCDC Members Say They Have Been ‘Treated Badly’

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 17 May 2016

RANGOON — Elected members of the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) rejected an order from Rangoon’s mayor to alter a regulation and effectively remove them from their positions before their terms had concluded.

City mayor and YCDC chairman Maung Maung Soe released an order on Monday calling on the Rangoon regional government to “replace” Article 64 of the YCDC Election Regulations.

The article allows serving committee members to work until the day before the newly elected members take their oaths after the election.

“The term of district and township level committee members must be the same as the government’s term,” the mayor’s proposed order reads.

Currently, YCDC has elected 115 committee members, including four individuals representing four districts of the commercial capital who are now serving within the YCDC’s executive committee. All were elected by the public in 2014’s citywide elections—the first in more than 60 years.

The executive committee is made up of nine members led by the mayor. Until Monday, the group included four members appointed by the previous government—all with military backgrounds—and four elected by the people. Three of the appointed members resigned on Tuesday; their term had been over since March 31 when the previous government had stepped down.

Khin Hlaing, an elected YCDC member for Rangoon’s western district who also serves on the executive committee, said the mayor’s order was undemocratic.

“What the Rangoon Chief Minister and Mayor have done is not in line with procedures,” he said during a joint press conference with other elected committee members at his office at YCDC on Tuesday.

He said that according to Article 85 of the same set of regulations, any announcement related to the regulations must first achieve a consensus within the committee before the mayor—the YCDC chairman—can submit such a proposal to the divisional government.

“The chairman has no right to submit this to the government and release the order on his own wishes, without holding a committee meeting,” he added.

The reason for altering the specified article of the YCDC Election Regulations remains unknown, as Mayor Maung Maung Soe—who was appointed to the role in April by the National League for Democracy (NLD) government—was not available for comment at the time of reporting.

Yet Tuesday’s press conference revealed tension between the mayor and the elected committee members.

Khin Hlaing said that since they took office in April, Rangoon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein has not met with the elected officials—only with the appointed members; the mayor reportedly formed working committees with the appointed members to grant budgets and building permits.

Khin Maung Tint, an executive committee member and YCDC representative for Rangoon’s northern district, told The Irrawaddy that those elected felt they had been “kicked out.” He speculated that the mayor had a preference for working alongside the appointed members.

“It hurts our dignity as we were elected by the people. We are being badly treated,” Khin Maung Tint said.

Mayor and YCDC Chairman Maung Maung Soe, a retired professor from the Yangon Institute of Economics, has also been flagged in a recent controversy questioning the validity of his graduate degrees allegedly from institutes in the Netherlands and the US. On April 5, the Myanmar Times reported that the mayor’s credentials could be purchased online for around US$300 (351,400 kyats). A letter widely shared on social media and reportedly from the Ministry of Education states that the mayor left the Yangon Institute of Economics after he was forced to retire in 2006.