Myanmar’s Ruling Party Vows to Improve Quality of Cabinet Appointments in New Govt

By The Irrawaddy 18 November 2020

YANGON—The National League for Democracy (NLD) government will make reforms to the union, state and regional cabinets before the new administration takes office in late March next year, in an apparent attempt to fix the problem of “not putting the right person in the right place” that beset the government during its first term.

The NLD won the general election on Nov. 8 in a landslide, and will rule Myanmar for a second five-year term.

Shortly after it first came to power in 2015, the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led NLD government was criticized for its failure to choose the right people for certain cabinet positions. The government was disgraced by some union-level ministers who had faked their academic achievements, while a regional chief minister was charged with corruption. At the same time, some state and regional chief ministers have failed to meet voters’ expectations and performed poorly, especially on development issues.

On Tuesday, the party’s vice chairman, Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, said at a press conference that State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was aware of the records of all the current cabinet members after five years, adding that public complaints against some ministers had been sent to the party’s Central Executive Committee.

“It’s certain that highly efficient people will be chosen for the ministerial positions [in the next administration]. We have been urged to include some with political backgrounds while we [also] need technocrats for nation building,” said the party’s second most senior member after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

“What is certain is that the administration will be reformed,” he added.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung also said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would personally interview each candidate, as she did in 2015.

In his memoirs, U Win Htein, a former powerful NLD official who led the party’s power transition team after the 2015 election, wrote that candidates were headhunted by himself, current Union President U Win Myint and Dr. Zaw Myint Maung after a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We compiled the names. She [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] made the final selection. She didn’t agree with some of our nominations, but most of them were OK,” U Win Htein writes.

However, the selection turned out to be imperfect.

When the NLD listed its nominees for ministerial positions in March 2016, it emerged that the doctoral degree in finance listed by Planning and Finance Minister U Kyaw Win on his publicly released CV was fake. He was later investigated for corruption and resigned in 2018.

In May this year, then Tanintharyi Region Chief Minister Daw Le Le Maw was sentenced to 30 years in prison for bribery, becoming the first chief minister and the highest-ranking official to be charged under the Anti-Corruption Law since the NLD took power in 2016.

In Yangon, Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein has been a source of concern not only for city residents, but also for the union government.

Initial praise for the minister due to his efforts to reform the city’s bus system and crack down on Buddhist nationalists fizzled out when his financial mismanagement and mishandling of development issues, among other problems, were revealed by the regional auditor-general’s reports. To the union government’s embarrassment, he publicly said the country’s powerful military chief was on the same level as a director-general according to state protocol. The military demanded the union government “take necessary actions” against the chief minister, saying U Phyo Min Thein was not suitable for “constructive, long-term relations” with the army and that his confrontational comments about the military chief were an “insult”.

Later, the chief minister officially apologized to the military chief.

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