Parliament Abolishes Legal Affairs Commission

By Htet Naing Zaw 28 February 2019

NAYPYITAW—Myanmar’s Union Parliament on Thursday voted against extending the term of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission headed by ex-general and former Lower House speaker U Shwe Mann.

Only 20 lawmakers voted in favor of extending the commission, while 555 voted against with 10 abstentions.

The commission was formed on March 1, 2016 for a term of one year. Military-appointed lawmakers have repeatedly raised objections to extending the panel’s term, saying its work was unconstitutional. This time, a majority of lawmakers agreed with their call to abolish the commission, mainly because of U Shwe Mann’s recent re-entry into politics. On Feb. 5, U Shwe Mann applied to the Union Election Commission to register a new political party, the Union Betterment Party.

“Our party has helped him along, [asking him] to serve as a referee. As he will be participating in politics, he can no longer act as referee. That’s why,” said a Lower House lawmaker of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) who asked not to be named.

Retired General U Ko Ko Naing, a member of the commission, told The Irrawaddy that U Shwe Mann was still working at the commission’s office and would continue to do so until Parliament formally informs him of the commission’s abolition.

In an interview with One News Myanmar, U Shwe Mann said in early February that the future of the commission would depend on negotiations between him and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as it was formed with their bilateral agreement.

On his Facebook page, U Shwe Mann said his party will work towards building a democratic federal union; developing the economy; systematic development of education, healthcare and culture; and establishing rule of law, stability, equality and peace.

He added that the new party would work to establish a constitution that is suitable for the country.

U Shwe Mann was considered the third-most-powerful man in the military regime that came to power in a coup in 1988. He graduated from the No. 11 Intake of the Defense Services Academy in 1965. He was promoted to the rank of general in 2010 and appointed Chief of the General Staff (Army, Navy and Air).

He retired from the military (or Tatmadaw) along with then President U Thein Sein and other generals to join the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). He was voted into Parliament in 2010 and elected Lower House Speaker.

U Shwe Mann was purged from the USDP’s top position in August 2015 during a power struggle with U Thein Sein. He was called a turncoat by USDP supporters due to political maneuvering that led him to ally with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy leader, ahead of the 2015 election.

Though he lost to an NLD candidate in the 2015 election, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi appointed U Shwe Mann to head the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission of Myanmar’s Parliament in 2016.