Legal Affairs Commission Extended Despite Army Objections

By Htet Naing Zaw 27 February 2017

NAYPYIDAW — In the Union Parliament on Monday, Burma Army officials objected to extending the term of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission chaired by former general U Shwe Mann, stating that it was not formed in line with the 2008 military-drafted Constitution.

Military representative Brig-Gen Maung Maung said the commission violated the Constitution because amending, annulling, and rewriting laws—which the commission is in the midst of—is the responsibility of the two chambers of Parliament.

Fifty military representatives on Feb. 22 asked the Constitutional Tribunal of the Union to comment on whether the commission conformed to the Constitution, as it was formed according to changes introduced to laws regulating Union Parliament in 2014.

“We’re objecting because [the commission] goes against the Constitution. The commission’s term should not be extended while we are still asking the tribunal to remark on its legality,” Brig-Gen Maung Maung told reporters.

He said the objection and other actions carried out by military representatives are done in accordance with the Burma Army chief’s policy guidelines, adding that he raised the objection on behalf of all members of the military.

He said that such commissions in both the Upper and Lower houses are meant to act on a temporary basis.

However, National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers said the extension of the commission’s term is in accordance with the law. Although the 2008 Constitution does not include provisions for the formation of the commission, Union Parliament by-laws allow for it.

“It is in line with the law for a commission to provide advice [to Parliament] to enact laws,” Lower House lawmaker Daw Khin San Hlaing of the NLD told The Irrawaddy.

The proposal to extend the term of U Shwe Mann’s commission was put to vote and of 543 lawmakers present, 333 voted in favor, 189 against, and six abstained—extending the term of the commission.

U Shwe Mann initially created the commission in November 2011, and after being ousted as head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, and later from the party altogether, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi appointed him to head the commission.

One year after the new commission was formed under the new NLD government, former Mon State parliamentary speaker U Kyi Pe chose to resign from his post. He has been replaced with former Magwe Division parliamentary speaker Ye Myint.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko