Lawmakers Debate Report on Charter Amendment Proposal

By Htet Naing Zaw 11 March 2019

NAYPYITAW — A military-appointed lawmaker accused the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) of breaking the law by going about amending the Constitution as it has during a session of the Union Parliament on Friday.

“Despite numerous promises to act in line with the law, lawmakers and speakers are acting against the law, which is totally unacceptable,” Maj. Pyae Phyo Han said during discussion of a report on a proposed amendment to Article 261.

The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has proposed amending the article to have region and state chief ministers elected by their local legislatures rather than appointed by the president as they are now.

Military-appointed lawmakers raised strong objection to plans to have the proposal debated by a new committee now drafting proposed amendments to the Constitution rather than by the full Parliament.

“Amending [Article 261] in the 45-member committee doesn’t comply with the law and also delays the amendment process. Only when this is amended can the wishes of the majority of ethnic people in regions and states be fulfilled,” Maj. Pyae Phyo Han said.

Daw Khin Saw Wai, a Lower House lawmaker for the Arakan National Party (ANP), said the ANP could not form the regional government in Rakhine State under the Constitution even though it won most of the seats in the local legislature.

“I am concerned that if the 45-member committee handles the proposal, it will take a long time and the proposal will come to nothing,” she said.

Lower House NLD lawmaker U Win Win said his party wanted to amend all the provisions in the Constitution that restrict democracy and federalism, not just Article 261.

“To make the Constitution acceptable to the people, and to amend it in line with the law, the article in the proposal should be amended along with [other provisions] in the joint committee formed with the consent of the Union Parliament,” he said.

NLD lawmaker and Bill Committee Secretary U Myat Nyana Soe suggested that the Constitution be reviewed for possible amendments in numerical order, beginning with Chapter 1.

USDP lawmaker U Maung Myint criticized his suggestion.

“If you can’t sympathize a little and make a little concession to ethnic minorities, no matter if federalism is introduced, it won’t be a success,” he said.

A total 16 lawmakers from the NLD, USDP, ANP, military and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy joined the discussion on the Article 261 report on Friday. Another 52 lawmakers have signed up to comment as well.

The Constitution guarantees the military 25 percent of the seats in Parliament. Amendments to that and other articles granting the military special privileges requires approval from more than 75 percent of lawmakers, giving the military veto power.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.