Military Representatives Criticize Parliamentary Committee for Lack of Transparency

By Htet Naing Zaw 8 June 2018

NAYPYITAW — Military representatives to Myanmar’s Lower House of Parliament have criticized a parliamentary committee that they say was formed and operated without transparency.

On Thursday, lawmakers discussed the 2016-17 report of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) of the Union Parliament—the first discussion of its function since it was formed some four years ago at the Lower House.

The committee was formed to facilitate coordination between the two houses of the Union Parliament as well as cooperation between the Union Parliament and international partners, international Parliaments, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)

Military representatives claimed that lawmakers were not officially informed when the committee was established in June 2014 under President U Thein Sein’s government. Though the committee was formed at the Lower House and named the Joint Coordination Committee, the Upper House did not have such a committee.

Lawmakers were informed only when the committee was abolished and reformed as the Joint Coordination Committee of the Union Parliament in 2016, said military representatives, adding that the functions and activities of the committee were never reported to lawmakers.

The USDP and IPU provided US$13.7 million to the committee from 2013 to 2017, said Daw Wint Wah Tun, a National League for Democracy lawmaker, who discussed the committee report on Thursday.

JCC vice chairman and Upper House lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt said that he could not comment because he was not present at the parliamentary session on Thursday. Another member and Lower House lawmaker U Phyo Zeya Thaw declined to comment, saying that concerned lawmakers will explain more in detail regarding the JCC next week.

According to the 2016-17 report, the JCC was formed at the Union Parliament level in May 2016 and led by the vice chairman of the Lower House. The report says that the JCC is cooperating with 13 international partners.

Military representatives asked the JCC to exercise caution in cooperating with international agencies and ensure no state secrets are leaked.

They said that even the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission has to seek the Union Parliament’s approval for its formation and yearly extensions, but in the case of JCC, it was never done.

“Lawmakers were not informed when committee members were changed. And even the Union Parliament website does not provide information about the committee,” military representative Major Zin Lin told the reporters.

Military representatives welcome the formation and objective of the JCC, but “we raised an objection because it was not formed in line with parliamentary laws and rules,” he added.

“We are legislators, and it is important that legislators do not break the law. Only then, will we be able to do checks and balances on others,” he said.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.