NLD Proposes Lifting Ban Barring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi From Presidency

By Htet Naing Zaw 15 March 2019

NAYPYITAW — The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) on Thursday proposed scrapping an article in the Constitution that bars Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency during a meeting of a joint committee drafting amendments to the charter.

Article 59 (f) says the president “shall himself, one of the parents, the spouse, one of the legitimate children or their spouses not owe allegiance to a foreign power, not be the subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country. They shall not be persons entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges of a subject of a foreign government or citizen of a foreign country.”

“The NLD proposed scrapping Article 59 (f),” a member of the committee who asked for anonymity told The Irrawaddy.

Other committee members confirmed the proposal.

Daw Yin Min Myint Swe, spokesperson for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said changes to the article had national implications and as such could not be made easily.

“Speaking for our party’s policy, we have no plans to touch Article 59 (f),” she told The Irrawaddy.

The joint committee was formed in mid-February with 45 lawmakers from all parties in Parliament as well as military appointees in rough proportion to their number of seats. It is reviewing the military-drafted Constitution chapter by chapter and is to draft a bill with proposed amendments.

To date the committee has reviewed three out of 15 chapters in the charter.

According to some members of the committee, representatives of the ethnic parties are proposing more changes than even the NLD — whose idea it was to form the committee — while the USDP and military have suggested none.

Proposals by the NLD and ethnic parties include gradually reducing the 25-percent quota of legislative seats reserved for military appointees, and having only one vice president instead of two by doing away with the one chosen by the military.

During the previous quasi-military administration, the NLD attempted to amend Article 59 (f) and Article 436 in Parliament. Although it collected some 5 million signatures in support of the changes with the help of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, the attempt failed.

“Everyone knows whether or not Article 59 (f) is reasonable,” Upper House NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt, a member of the joint committee, told reporters.

Mandalay-based lawyer U Thein Than Oo said Article 59 (f) should not exist at all as it was written specifically to keep Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose children are foreign nationals, from the presidency.

The original draft article on presidential eligibility barred only those with foreign spouses. But after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband, Michael Aris, died in 1999, it was updated to include children.

Ultra-nationalists have meanwhile staged protests in Yangon and elsewhere against amending Article 59 (f).

The joint committee is to submit a report on its review of the entire Constitution by July 17.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.