NLD Stands by Commitment to Amend 2008 Constitution

By Nyein Nyein 25 June 2018

YANGON — The National League for Democracy stands by its commitment to amend the 2008 Constitution, said a vice chairman of the NLD on Sunday at a press conference following its second congress.

Another aim of the NLD’s party congress is to push for the success of nationwide peacebuilding, continued Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, the No. 2 vice chairman of the NLD, who is also the Mandalay Region chief minister.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung highlighted that the government is trying to solve political problems through political means and peace conferences, where negotiators are trying to achieve democratic federal principles through the Union Accord as a way to amend the Constitution.

In May’s conference last year, negotiators including the government, Tatmadaw and ethnic armed organizations who are NCA signatories, reached 37 basic principles for the federal Union and labeled this part one of the Union Accord, but these were criticized for lacking key federal principles.

“Not achieving peace is an obstacle to a flourishing democracy in Myanmar, so we aim to support peace. It is important for our people,” Dr. Zaw Myint Maung added.

Under the incumbent NLD, two more ethnic armed groups became signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in February, which now has 10 signatories. The government is trying to add more and is holding talks with the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and armed forces based along the Sino-Myanmar border.

U Aung Soe, a member of the government Peace Commission and an NLD lawmaker, also told The Irrawaddy on Sunday that the group is hoping the KNPP will become a signatory to the NCA during the third session of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference slated to be held in mid-July. He did not elaborate, stating that “things could go wrong” if he elaborated on the details while negotiations were still ongoing.

The NLD’s peacebuilding efforts and progress were shared with party delegates at the congress, where senior party leaders shared political and public organizing activity reports. The NLD then elected six additional central executive committee (CEC) members and dozens of new central committee members nationwide from its 1,056 delegates on Saturday. The following day, 176 central committee leaders, both old and new, held a discussion on future party activities including the president’s aim to develop people’s livelihoods, rule of law, peace and national reconciliation, and amending the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. The ruling party also aims to win the upcoming by-election in November and the general election in 2020, and to strengthen the party.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, U Nyan Win and Dr. Myo Nyunt, all members of the CEC, answered reporters’ queries regarding future NLD activities, progress on the amendment of the 2008 Constitution, promoting the well-being of the public and a younger generation of NLD leadership.

More Needs to Be Done to Fulfill Public Needs

The NLD has been criticized for the economic hardship felt by the general public, as well as its failure to bring peace, particularly in northern Kachin, northeastern Shan and western Rakhine states.

Party leaders stated that they are well aware of the issues they face and that they try to adjust to the needs of the people.

“We are not worried about the criticism as it keeps us informed,” said U Nyan Win.

“The public is not saying that democracy is going backward,” he replied to a reporter’s question. “They are complaining that change is taking too long and that they are in poverty. We need to have real progress in the democratic transition as well as nationwide economic development.”

There are some obvious achievements but others are unnoticeable, added U Nyan Win. “We are working toward the policy that we set from the beginning,” he said.

U Kel, a member of the Sagaing Region Parliament representing Lahe Township, told The Irrawaddy that he believes the NLD government will continue performing well during its remaining two years in office.

“We cannot say that the NLD has completely lost public support. It has until 2020 to improve its image,” said U Kel, an ethnic Naga who is sympathetic toward the leadership and optimistic about overcoming the challenges they face.

The party’s senior leaders who are cabinet members stated that they are satisfied with their performance to date but that much remains to be done to fulfill the needs of the public.

“We are satisfied with our performance because we work with good intention,” said Dr. Zaw Myint Maung.

NLD Highlights Freedom of Expression

The NLD leaders did not elaborate on successes in relation to campaign promises they made prior to the 2015 election.

“One thing we can highlight is progress in freedom of expression as people take to the streets to voice their demands and criticisms. We welcome this constructive criticism,” said Dr. Zaw Myint Maung.

However, the NLD government has been criticized for police forces detaining protesters and charging them under the Peaceful Assembly Act. The government has said that this is because according to the Constitution, the Ministry of Home Affairs is controlled by the military.

Putting the Ministry of Home Affairs under the elected government is one of the key amendments the NLD wants to make, added Dr. Zaw Myint Maung.

“As the home affairs minister is appointed by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and not directly appointed by the government, it is not easy to address [affairs related to his tasks]. However, it is not that we are not watching over the works of the minister. Our Parliament is monitoring all of the cabinets.”