Govt Officials Fail to Front Parliament to Discuss Urgent Proposals

By The Irrawaddy 26 February 2016

RANGOON — Despite lawmakers’ requests, relevant government officials failed to appear before Parliament this week, as MPs discussed urgent proposals on providing support to anti-poppy activists in Kachin State and on the apparent quick-fire sale of state-owned land and projects during the country’s protracted transition period.

On Thursday, the Lower House discussed a proposal, tabled the previous day, calling on the government to provide assistance to a Christian anti-drugs group known as Pat Jasan. No government official was present for the discussion which took place shortly after news broke that the group was attacked in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township on their way to destroying poppy fields.

Lower House Speaker Win Myint said on Thursday that the legislature had invited relevant officials to speak on the matter.

“We arranged for discussions involving the Union-level authorities concerned, but they failed to show up,” he told lawmakers on Thursday.

On Friday, government officials again failed to front the Lower House to discuss a proposal tabled by the National League for Democracy (NLD)’s Khin San Hlaing urging authorities to review permissions to sell or lease state-owned factories, facilities and projects before a new government takes power on April 1. The proposal, which was approved by lawmakers on Friday, also included for discussion the plight of squatters after large-scale evictions were carried out in Rangoon last month.

A letter sent to the Parliament from the central government and read by the Lower House speaker on Friday stated that officials were busy with the transition process and not yet ready to respond on the matter.

Khin San Hlaing said in the Parliament that the government had missed an opportunity to explain to the people the handling of state assets.

“The proposal was not intended to create a misunderstanding but to give a chance to responsible officials to explain from their side,” Khin San Hlaing said during Friday’s parliamentary session.

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

“Whether the incumbent Union government should be accountable to the second parliament or not is an issue to be reviewed according to the constitution,” Ye Htut said, as quoted in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.