MPs to Mull Creation of Powerful ‘State Adviser’ Role for Suu Kyi

By The Irrawaddy 31 March 2016

RANGOON — Parliament’s Upper House on Thursday agreed to discuss a draft bill that would create a powerful new position in the executive branch earmarked for Aung San Suu Kyi and intended to facilitate a pledge she made last year to govern from a position “above the president” in the National League for Democracy government sworn into power this week.

Known as the State Adviser Bill, the draft includes five sections and specifically names Suu Kyi as the country’s State adviser. The aims of the bill are “to help a multi-party democracy flourish, to generate a vibrant market economy, to establish a federal Union and to spur peace and development in the Union.”

Aung Kyi Nyunt, the NLD lawmaker who submitted the proposal, told Upper House lawmakers that “appointing Suu Kyi as the state adviser would be a way to include the people.”

The document says the state adviser should offer suggestions in the interest of the people and state, without contradicting the Constitution. Suu Kyi would be able to collaborate with any government organization, department or individual to accomplish these goals.

The state adviser’s term would be the same as that of the president, with the law, if enacted, only in effect for the parliamentary term ending in early 2021.

The draft was submitted to the Upper House on Thursday, one day after Suu Kyi’s NLD-led government was sworn in and her proxy Htin Kyaw became Burma’s first civilian president since 1962. Suu Kyi’s portfolio of four ministerial positions—in foreign affairs, education, the President’s Office and electric power and energy—was also approved on Wednesday.

“This position would be the highest in the country. If it is approved, [Suu Kyi] will be the head of state,” said Phyu Phyu Thin, an NLD lawmaker. If that assessment proves true, the law would likely face scrutiny from Burma’s Constitutional Tribunal, which is charged with examining the constitutionality of legislation passed by Parliament.

Article 58 of the Constitution states: “The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar takes precedence over all other persons throughout the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.”

Despite announcing publicly that she wanted to be Burma’s president, the Nobel laureate Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from that office because her two children carry British passports, as did her late husband.

Shortly before the general election in November, Suu Kyi said she would be “above the president” if the NLD were to secure enough parliamentary seats to form the next government.

The bill’s proposal faced no objection when it was submitted to the NLD-dominated Upper House on Thursday. Parliamentary discussion will continue on Monday.