USDP Lawmaker Proposes Abolishing Charter Amendment Committee

By San Yamin Aung 13 March 2019

YANGON — A lawmaker for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on Tuesday proposed abolishing a joint committee recently formed to draft amendments to the Constitution, the latest challenge to efforts by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) to change the military-drafted charter.

During a debate in the Union Parliament on a report about a USDP amendment proposal, U Thaung Aye urged lawmakers to abolish the committee because it was a violation of the law.

“We all agree that the Constitution should be amended. But what sets us apart is whether it should be amended in accordance with the law or against the law,” he said.

The Bill Committee had suggested that an earlier proposal by the USDP to amend Article 261 of the Constitution be reviewed and considered by the new amendment-drafting committee instead of the full Parliament. The amendment-drafting committee is to submit a report on its review of the entire Constitution by July 17 and then draw up a bill with proposed changes.

Military-appointed lawmakers supported the USDP’s Article 261 proposal, and together with the military-backed USDP, a former ruling party made up of ex-generals, objected to the Bill Committee’s suggestion. They want Parliament to consider the Article 261 amendment, which would have region and state chief ministers elected by their local legislatures rather than appointed by the president, on its own.

U Thaung Aye, a former lieutenant general, also asked on Tuesday that the original proposal from NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt to form the amendment-drafting committee be withdrawn.

Parliament overwhelmingly approved U Aung Kyi Nyunt’s proposal on Feb. 6 and soon thereafter formed the 45-member body with lawmakers from all parties in the legislature in rough proportion to their number of seats. The committee has already reviewed the 48 Basic Principles of the Union in Chapter 1 and has started on Chapter 2.

“We need to remember that Article 433 of the Constitution says: ‘Any provision of the Constitution may be amended.’ It says any provision, not that the whole book may be amended,” U Thaung Aye said during Tuesday’s session.

More than 40 lawmakers, including some military appointees, have commented on the report on the USDP’s amendment proposal. Another 15 lawmakers are scheduled to comment on Thursday.