NLD Sources Signal Push for Charter Change in Parliament

By The Irrawaddy 3 February 2016

NAYPYIDAW — A proposal to suspend Article 59(f) of Burma’s Constitution to allow Aung San Suu Kyi to assume the presidency may be put before the Parliament as soon as next week, according to at least two National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers, who wished to remain anonymous.

The first session of the Union Parliament is scheduled to take place on Feb. 8 where the proposal could be tabled, according to a Lower House MP with the NLD, who acknowledged that such a motion was not outlined in the official legislative agenda.

“Now we’ve got the agenda for the Union Parliament’s session on Feb. 8, but it does not include a proposal to suspend Article 59(f). But then, urgent proposals are not usually mentioned in the agenda,” the lawmaker said.

Another NLD lawmaker in the Lower House who has close ties with Suu Kyi claimed that the proposal would be tabled soon and that negotiations on the legal permutations were underway.

“The proposal to suspend 59(f) will be submitted [soon],” the lawmaker told The Irrawaddy.

Article 59(f) of Burma’s military-drafted charter disqualifies anyone with a foreign spouse or children from becoming president, effectively barring Suu Kyi whose two children are British nationals, as was her late husband.

In early December, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lawmaker Thura Aung Ko suggested the clause could be suspended with a majority of lawmakers in an interview with the BBC Burmese service. However, some lawmakers have cautioned that the proposal would be “unconstitutional” and it is unknown whether military lawmakers would support it.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, lawyer Ko Ni explained that, if it proceeded, an initial vote would only be on a proposal to determine whether legislation should then be drafted.

An opinion piece in the army-owned newspaper Myawaddy on Monday, written under the pen name Sai Wai Lu, stated that the clause should not be amended “for all eternity,” according to a translation by the Myanmar Times.

In recent days, reports in local media suggested NLD representatives have been in negotiations with the military on the question of the presidency.

When asked about the presidency at a press conference in Naypyidaw on Wednesday afternoon, Suu Kyi replied that she would comment when it is time.