Lawmakers Call for End to Disciplinary Transfers of Corrupt, Incompetent Officials

By Htet Naing Zaw 20 September 2018

NAYPYITAW—Lawmakers have criticized the unofficial but long-standing practice of transferring civil servants to border and ethnic areas of the country as a disciplinary measure.

Such disciplinary action should no longer be practiced in a country that is preparing to establish a federal Union system, lawmakers from underdeveloped areas told reporters in Naypyitaw on Thursday.

Disciplinary transfers of civil servants for corruption or poor performance have a negative impact on the development of ethnic regions, said Lower House lawmaker Dr. Khin Sithu of Karenni State’s Loikaw Township.

“I was quite upset when a police colonel said at a recent meeting of the bill committee that he had consigned some policemen to Chin State because they hadn’t performed their duties properly,” the lawmaker said.

Whenever a newly transferred civil servant arrives in Karenni State, his colleagues ask him what he did wrong to be transferred there, the lawmaker said.

It had become a cliché among officials to speak of punitive transfers to ethnic states like Kachin, Karenni, Chin and Rakhine, whose development lags behind other parts of the country, she said.

The practice showed a disregard for ethnic regions that belied the rhetoric of a federal Union, democracy and equality, she said.

Karenni State is not a prison, said Dr. Khin Sithu, who is a former chairperson of the Karenni State chapter of the ruling National League for Democracy.

Ni Shwe Lan, a Lower House lawmaker from Chin State’s Htantalan Township, said, “We are unhappy that civil servants are transferred to our areas as a punishment. There are not many educated persons [civil servants] in Chin State. Most of the people here are inexperienced. So we want to receive those who can educate and mentor our staff and enhance their capacity.”

Transferring civil servants to less-developed parts of the country not only ends their career but also impedes the development of the region, she said, adding that civil servants who are punished in that way lose all enthusiasm for their work.

Lower House lawmaker U Ar Moe Si of Kachin State’s Khaung Lam Pu said the current township and assistant township education officers in his constituency had been transferred there as a form of disciplinary action.

“The Union education minister said in the Union Parliament that the two were transferred to Khaung Lam Pu as a punishment,” he said.

No one has passed the matriculation examination in Khaung Lam Pu for the past nine years, so assigning such officials to the township education office discourages the existing staff, who have been working in very poor conditions and bad weather, the lawmaker said.

The lawmaker said he had raised questions about the practice in Parliament, and suggested that officials who break the code of conduct for civil servants be assigned to offices in Naypyitaw instead.

Deputy Education Minister Dr. Win Maw Tun said there is no official policy of punishing civil servants by transferring them to ethnic regions. Official punishments range from verbal and written warnings, to suspension, demotion and dismissal, he said.

“In the Khaung Lam Pu case, I only intended to improve their performance. No law prescribes the punishment of transferring someone to remote areas,” the deputy education minister told The Irrawaddy.

In fact, the unofficial practice of transferring civil servants to remote areas as a punishment has been around since the monarchical period.

“I found that some civil servants in Buthidaung were taking bribes. They had in fact been transferred from non-ethnic areas as a punishment for corruption,” said Lower House lawmaker U Aung Thaung Shwe of Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township.