Burma

NLD: Myanmar Military MPs’ Meetings With Public an ‘Unethical’ Poll Tactic

By Htet Naing Zaw 21 October 2019

NAYPYITAW—Lawmakers with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party have criticized military-appointed lawmakers for holding meetings with voters to hear their concerns, saying that the practice is unethical for legislators.

Lawmakers often meet with their constituents to explain their strategies and decisions while the Parliament is adjourned. Recently, military lawmakers have started holding their first ever public meetings of this kind in some townships in Naypyitaw.

NLD lawmakers have questioned whether military lawmakers truly represent any constituents as they are appointed by the military’s commander-in-chief. According to the 2008 Constitution, 25 percent of parliamentary seats, both in regional parliaments and the Union Parliament, are reserved for military appointees.

“They didn’t enter the parliament through an election. They do not represent particular constituencies,” said Lower House NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo. “As they have held public meetings in some townships, this will negatively affect lawmakers from those townships. It is against the ethics of legislators.” 

U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo represents Yangon’s Hline Township.

“Other lawmakers, even the elected ones, shouldn’t come and meet residents in Hline. If they want to meet [residents], they should coordinate with me first. Lawmakers must observe ethics,” said U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo. He suggested that provisions be added to legislature laws to bar such public meetings by military lawmakers.

NLD lawmaker U Nay Myo Tun, who represents Htantabin Township in Yangon Region, said there is no law barring military lawmakers from holding public meetings, but that it is a matter of ethics.

“There are lawmakers elected by the people in respective townships. Do [military lawmakers] come to meet people because elected lawmakers aren’t doing their job? Or are [military lawmakers] preparing for the 2020 election?” U Nay Myo Tun said.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact Brigadier General Maung Maung, the leader of the military lawmakers in the Parliament, for comment on the military lawmakers’ meetings with constituents.

When asked about the meetings, military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told the Irrawaddy it is the traditional task of the military, also known as the Tatmadaw, to rally public support but that it was better to ask the lawmakers themselves.

“The Tatmadaw has three major tasks: state defense, training and public welfare. As public support is critical for defense strategy, including people’s militias, we are working as much as we can to gain public support,” the military spokesperson explained. 

NLD Upper House lawmaker U Aung Thein also questioned the intentions of military lawmakers in holding the public meetings.

“Where they should go is the camps for internally displaced persons [IDPs]; they should ask what people there need,” said U Aung Thein. “Then they will have better engagement with the people and people will tell them their struggles. It is good if the lawmakers are working to build understanding, but what they have done has raised many questions.”

Compared to the previous Parliament, military lawmakers under the NLD government have posed more questions and participated more in debates on proposals and bills in both houses.

The military bloc has also opposed the NLD’s move to amend the 2008 Constitution, saying the ruling party’s actions are against constitutional procedures.

“It appears that the Tatmadaw has engaged more and more in politics. It has conducted activities in the name of race and religion and made donations to different religious communities,” said lawmaker U Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo. “They’ve organized pro-military rallies and now military lawmakers have met with constituents, so it’s fair to say the military is engaging in politics.”

An official code of ethics for lawmakers was drafted three years ago and the finalized version will soon be submitted to the Union Parliament for approval. The code of ethics is under the purview of the Parliamentary Rights Committee, according to committee secretary Dr. Hla Moe.

“We drafted it because it is necessary for every lawmaker. It is about ‘dos and don’ts’ for lawmakers that are not covered by laws,” he said. 

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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