Controversial Recall Bill Needs More Time, Lawmakers Told

By Htet Naing Zaw 27 February 2018

NAYPYITAW — Proposed legislation that would allow for impeachment proceedings against sitting lawmakers will need more time to craft even after years of work, a member of the Union Election Commission (UEC) told a session of the Upper House of Parliament on Tuesday.

Replying to a question from USDP lawmaker U Sai Than Naing, Karen State (5), U Aung Myint said the Joint Bill Committee concluded that the so-called recall bill could affect national reconciliation efforts and required more in-depth discussion.

The bill was debated in Parliament twice during the U Thein Sein government, in 2012 and 2015, but the Upper and Lower houses could not agree on a single version.

“Fifteen lawmakers discussed the report of the Joint Bill Committee, which called for a suspension, and the Union Parliament approved the report,” U Aung Myint said during Tuesday’s session.

Citing the 2008 Constitution, U Sai Than Naing said voters should have the right to recall their elected lawmakers if they fail to serve their interests or if they are incapable, corrupt or break the law.

“However, people still can’t enjoy that right until now,” he said.

U Ye Htun, a former lawmaker from Shan State’s Hsipaw Township, said he supported the bill, noting that no one, not even the president or parliamentary speakers, can now dismiss lawmakers.

“It is also provided in the Constitution. This is the check and balance between the people and the lawmakers they elect,” he said.

Section 396 of the Constitution states that a representative can be “recalled” for a number of reasons including high treason, breaching any provision of the Constitution, misconduct as prescribed in the Constitution, and the inefficient discharge of their duties.

According to the Constitution, at least 1 percent of the original voters in the representative’s constituency must submit a complaint to the UEC to recall a lawmaker.

NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt said there should be a mechanism for recalling lawmakers who perform badly but argued that the threshold for doing so in the Constitution was far too low.

“That 1 percent can be constituted by those who didn’t vote for the lawmaker and other forces [parties]. No lawmaker won the election with over 99 percent of the votes. What if 1 percent from other forces always file complaints?” he asked.

Section 397 of the Constitution sets the Union Parliament the task of enacting legislation to enable the recalls.

“It is a loss for the people not to enact the law just because of that percentage,” said U Nanda Hla Myint, a spokesman for the USDP.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.