In US, Shwe Mann Urged to Focus on Peace

By Lin Thant 20 June 2013

Shwe Mann, a leading lawmaker with presidential ambitions, has been urged by the Burmese community in the United States to focus on legislation that would help sustain Burma’s current peace process.

The speaker of Burma’s lower house of Parliament, Shwe Mann, who represents the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), was traveling to the United States last week to talk with US lawmakers in Washington. He also met with members of the Burmese community during a visit to California last weekend.

“We first raised the issues of ending wars in ethnic areas and [establishing] a nationwide ceasefire for internal peace,” said Ko Ko Lay, a Burmese activist in the San Francisco Bay Area who organized the event last Sunday.

He said participants at the event also urged all-inclusiveness for ethnic minority groups in Burma’s next election, which is scheduled to be held in 2015.

Apart from necessary changes to legislation, Ko Ko Lay said the Burmese community called on Shwe Mann to pay particular attention to creating a new law on general amnesty and to push for a constitutional amendment.

Shwe Mann told the group that Burma was one of the world’s least developed countries and could only become prosperous through democracy.

“With this belief, the previous government made a decision to work on the democratization process,” he said in a speech.

Asked if he wanted to be Burma’s next president, Shwe Mann said he was fully ready to take the position. He made a similar remark in an earlier interview with the Voice of America news agency.

Recently, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi also announced her desire to be the country’s next head of state during the World Economic Forum in Naypyidaw. According to the current Constitution, however, she is not eligible to take the post because her late husband was British and her children hold foreign citizenship.

Shwe Mann, a former general who has built a reputation as a reformist and is known to communicate closely with Suu Kyi in Parliament, has said lawmakers were working to amend the Constitution.

“We know there are concerns about constitutional restrictions regarding Suu Kyi’s eligibility to become the president,” he told an audience of American politicians at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. “We have already formed a commission to analyze the Constitution and make necessary amendments.”

During his visit to the United States, Shwe Mann also met with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York. During that meeting last Saturday, Ban Ki-moon reportedly praised the progress of recent reforms but urged Burma’s government to tackle communal violence in the country.