Oath Rewording to be Raised in Parliament

By Nyein Nyein 23 April 2012

A proposal for the rewording of the admission oath is likely to be discussed by a meeting of the Union Parliament this week, according to prominent MPs from both houses.

Phone Myint Aung, an independent MP of the Upper House, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that, “I’ve heard that the oath rewording will be proposed by MPs in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [Union Parliament] tomorrow morning.”

Burma’s main opposition NLD party wants the oath which all new parliamentarians must swear to reworded from “abide by and protect” to “abide by and respect” the Constitution.

Dr. Aye Maung, a respected Upper House MP from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said that “the Union Solidarity and Development Party [USDP] has more responsibility to change the platform for the NLD [National League for Democracy] to be able take their seats in the Parliament.”

If the political situation turns back to the past, the ruling USDP is the one to take all the blame, he added.

Htay Oo, the general secretary of the military-backed USDP, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that he does not think it is necessary to change the oath. “Even though the word [protect] is there,” he explained, “there are no restrictions on the freedom to speak in Parliament.”

There are also criticisms that those MPs who seek to raise the oath-rewording proposal do not have enough influence in the legislature for such a move.

Thein Nyunt, a lawyer and independent MP in the Lower House, said the MP-elects should come and try to tackle the issue inside Parliament as “MPs need 20 percent of support to propose the change.”

Phone Myint Aung explained that according to the Constitution, “there must be 20 percent support from the MPs to propose the issue to the Parliament and then it needs the approval of 75 percent to be able to change session 125, which is linked to appendix four in the Constitution for swearing-in oath words.”

The wording in appendix four currently states the MPs must swear to “abide by and protect” the Constitution before taking their seats.

“We are trying to get the oath reworded to be able to take our seats in Parliament,” said Ohn Kyaing, an NLD MP-elect from Maha Aung Myae Constituency in Mandalay.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD’s chairperson, told reporters on Sunday that “we are not boycotting” but just “waiting for the right time to go” to Parliament.

However, President Thein Sein told reporters in Japan on Monday that he would welcome Aung San Suu Kyi to Parliament, but that it is the Nobel Laureate’s decision whether or not to take her seat.

Sai Saung Si, an Upper House MP from the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, echoes the views of Thein Nyunt. He says that it is important for the MP-elects to become full members of Parliament, and that only after they swear-in will they have power to amend the Constitution.

But he said that he “would not comment on the word choice as it is [the NLD’s] right to decide.”

On the first day of Parliament since the April 1 by-elections, the two other MP-elects—from the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party and USDP—were sworn in, but the 43 NLD members abstained.

Meanwhile, the state-run media reported on Monday that 59 army representatives between the Upper and Lower Houses are to be replaced with higher ranking officers—colonels and brigadier-generals instead of majors—for the new session.

New parliamentary meetings will discuss the investment bill, import and export bill and social welfare bill which were all approved in the Lower House during the previous session.