Privatization of Transmitter Site Stirs Passions in Parliament

By Zue Zue 19 June 2015

RANGOON — The Union Parliament chamber hosted an unusually lively legislative session on Thursday as Information Minister Ye Htut sparred with lawmakers and faced threats of impeachment over privatization of the Yegu transmitter at the corner of Gandamar and Wai Za Yan Tar roads in northwestern Rangoon.

In May, the Information Ministry invited tenders for turning over 90 out of 120 acres of the former site of a state broadcasting station in Rangoon’s Mayangon Township, seeking development proposals.

An Eleven Media report accused the ministry of conducting the tendering process in a turbid fashion, saying the brief window for bidders—just over a month—was not enough for most companies to submit proposals. The report claimed that the tender excludes all but a handful of well-connected media companies.

According to the tender invitation, bidders were to submit detailed development plans for the site by a June 19 deadline, including zoning plans for each portion of the project, implementation programs with detailed methodology, cost estimates and work schedules. The tender was issued on May 15.

Lawmaker Aung Thein Lin from the South Okkalapa Township constituency submitted an urgent proposal to the Union parliament seeking suspension of the project.

Legislators approved the proposal on May 27, but the Union government sent a letter to Parliament dated June 4 indicating that it would “consider” the project to ensure state losses were not incurred as a result of the privatization. The information minister then submitted a list of six bidders during Thursday’s session of the Union Parliament, riling lawmakers.

A number of parliamentarians spoke against Ye Htut’s attempt to push the project forward, with some saying he could be impeached if he did not respect Parliament’s decision, which they said would be in violation of the Constitution.

Article 228 of the Constitution states that the Union government must “implement the administrative resolutions passed occasionally by the Union Parliament and report back the actions which have been taken to the Union Parliament.”

“A parliamentary session already decided to suspend privatization on May 27. But then, Information Minister U Ye Htut even accepted a bid submitted on June 3,” said Phone Myint Aung, a lawmaker from the Lower House with the New National Democracy Party.

“Parliament has told him to stop, but he continues and even said at the Parliament that he would continue. It is defying the Parliament. I have submitted [a motion] to impeach U Ye Htut. There will be a series of consequences. You wait and see,” he said.

Ye Htut said he is ready to face any impeachment proceedings brought by lawmakers. He said he would make sure the state does not suffer losses in the course of the Yegu site’s privatization and denied having any vested interest in the project.

“My decisions may be right or wrong in handling the functions of the Information Ministry. There may be weaknesses,” Ye Htut told lawmakers. “But one thing I am sure of is that I have no personal interests, nothing at all [in the project]. My wife and my children do not operate media agencies and they do not supply anything to the Information Ministry. I may make wrong decisions because of my nascent experiences, but when it comes to morality and personal interests, I dare to be tested.”

According to Ye Htut, the six bidders for the project are Auspicious Millennium Trading Group, Yangon Engineering Group, Global Technology, Shwe Than Lwin Media, Thein Kyaw Kyaw and Myanmar Media United.

The fate of the tender remains unclear.