Shwe Mann to Head Powerful Legislative Commission

By San Yamin Aung 5 February 2016

RANGOON — Shwe Mann, Burma’s former Parliament Speaker who is viewed as an ally of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been appointed to lead a legislative oversight commission.

As chairman of the Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission, Shwe Mann will be tasked with supporting parliamentary committees as they amend existing laws and draft new bills.

The commission’s 23 members were announced by his successor, Lower House Speaker Win Myint, on Friday. Ko Ko Naing, a member of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), will serve as vice chairman.

Shwe Mann, a former general, was removed from his post as USDP chairman in August, but he remained a member of the party. The surprise ouster was widely interpreted as a a response to his closeness with Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The former speaker stood in last year’s election as a USDP member but lost to the NLD, which won nearly 80 percent of all contested seats in the national Parliament and is now the ruling party.

The Legal Affairs Commission was formed in 2012 to support lawmakers and liaise between committees. Its new permutation comprises members of several political parties, ex-military officials, retired civil servants, diplomats and legal experts.

Burma’s outgoing assembly, which concluded last week, had four standing and 19 ad hoc committees comprising only lawmakers, and the commission was created to incorporate expert guidance from outside the legislature, according to Lower House Deputy Speaker T Khun Myat.

Commission members do not have to be elected members of Parliament, but are granted legal protection to speak freely with lawmakers about pending legislation and make recommendations directly to Parliament.

The commission was previously chaired by former Lower House Deputy Speaker Nanda Kyaw Swar. Members are appointed for one-year terms that can be extended by Parliament.

Shwe Mann’s appointment did not come as much of a surprise; he has long been expected to play an important role in the new government because of his close working relationship with Suu Kyi.