Parliament Put on Hold as President Meets with Speakers

By Nyein Nyein, Political Parties 23 August 2012

A day after holding talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s President Thein Sein met on Thursday with the speakers of both house of Parliament amid a growing dispute over a controversial decision by the country’s Constitutional Tribunal.

Although no details have been released about either meeting, it is widely believed that the president discussed recent moves by Parliament to force the tribunal from office. Today’s talks took place as both chambers of the national legislature were ordered to suspend the day’s proceedings.

Thein Sein’s meeting with Suu Kyi was his second in less than two weeks. The two leaders have met four times since since Thein Sein took office a year and a half ago. The last time was 10 days ago, when Suu Kyi was appointed chairperson of the newly formed Rule of Law and Stability Committee by Parliament.

Observers in Naypyidaw noted that the meetings follow Thein Sein’s decision earlier this week to reject demands to overturn a tribunal decision that denies parliamentary committees the status of “Union-level organizations.”

In response to the demands, the president said that lawmakers should move to amend the Constitution if they are not happy with the decision, instead of simply calling for the members of the tribunal to step down.

Under Burma’s military-back Constitution, amendments require the approval of 75 percent of MPs.

Meanwhile, MPs said they will initiate impeachment proceedings against the tribunal in accordance with the Constitution. “The Upper House parliamentarians will start a proposal for the impeachment on Friday,” said Phone Myint Aung, an Upper House MP from the New National Democracy Party.

To propose impeachment, the MPs need the backing of two-thirds of MPs. If the Upper House approves the proposal, it will pass to the Lower House, which can then form an inquiry committee to examine the Constitutional Tribunal.

However, Lower House MPs, who last week submitted a petition calling on the tribunal to voluntarily resign, say they don’t expect to get the support of the 25 percent of lawmakers appointed by the military, or from former generals who resigned from the armed forces to become civilian MPs.

Phay Than, a Lower House MP from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, told The Irrawaddy that they have already lost the votes of the military appointees “because they are not on our side.”

The petition was signed by 301 of the Lower House’s 440 members, including Aung San Suu Kyi.