Suu Kyi Hopeful Oath Issue Will Soon Be Resolved

By Nyein Nyein 26 April 2012

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday that she believes a dispute over the wording of a swearing-in oath that has kept her National League for Democracy (NLD) from claiming its seats in Parliament will soon be settled.

Speaking during a press conference following a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, Suu Kyi said the problem was merely a technicality, and need not result in a political standoff.

“We’d like to regard it is a technical problem rather than a political one, and we would hope that others will look upon it this way and not try to push it to the extent that it becomes a political deadlock,” she told reporters.

Suu Kyi also affirmed that the NLD was trying to work with the government and that she continued to have faith in President Thein Sein’s reform efforts.

However, other senior members of her party seemed less certain that the disagreement over the oath would be settled anytime soon.

“This problem needs to solved by the authorities,” said NLD spokesperson Nyan Win, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

“We hope to join the [current session of] Parliament before it ends, but that is just our hope,” he said, noting that the party has yet to receive a reply to a letter it sent to the president, the speakers of both houses of Parliament and the Constitutional Court requesting a change in the wording of the oath.

The oath says that new MPs must “abide by and protect” the Constitution, but the NLD wants to change this to “abide by and respect.”

Despite the dispute, Suu Kyi reiterated that it was her party’s intention to work from within the army-dominated Parliament to fulfill its campaign promises to establish rule of law, reach a peaceful settlement with ethnic armed groups and amend the military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

However, other opposition MPs said that altering the oath would itself require a constitutional amendment, and that the NLD should therefore enter Parliament to propose the change.

“The issue is being negotiated among the lawmakers, but it needs to be done by following the procedure,” said Upper House MP Dr Aye Maung of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party.

Under the Constitution, proposed amendments must have the backing of at least 20 percent of Parliament before they can be considered, and need 75 percent support to be passed into law.

Meanwhile, the Italian foreign minister said during his press conference with Suu Kyi that despite the EU’s suspension of sanctions on Burma earlier this week, the country needed to make further progress on a number of issues for the punitive measures to be permanently lifted.

He said he reminded Thein Sein and Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann during his talks with them in Naypyidaw that the sanctions could be put back in place if there is any backsliding on reforms.