NLD Confirms Anti-Graft Agency Has No Power to Take Legal Action Against Lawmakers

By Htet Naing Zaw 28 May 2018

Naypyitaw—The Anti-Corruption Commission is not authorized to take direct legal action against elected lawmakers under the anti-corruption law, said Dr Myo Nyunt, spokesperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The recent resignation of Planning and Finance Minister U Kyaw Win, who was elected to the Lower House from Yangon’s Dagon Seikkan Township in the 2015 general election, due to a corrpution scandal, suggests that the commission has a limited mandate when it comes to prosecuting corrupt government officials, with punishment left up to the party that appointed them.

The President’s Office approved the resignation of U Kyaw Win days after the commission confirmed that it had been investigating the case.

“When the commission receives complaints against lawmakers, they hand over the cases to us as they are not authorized by the law to take action against them,” Dr Myo Nyunt said in Naypyitaw on Sunday.

“We can take action if a particular lawmaker negatively affects the party’s image or there are hints of a scandal,” he added.

U Han Nyunt, the commission’s spokesperson, acknowledged that the agency’s hands were tied in many cases involving elected officials, but added that it was better that lawmakers are disciplined according to parliamentary laws.

“We can take certain legal action. But frankly speaking, lawmakers should be disciplined by the parliament,” he said.

U Nay Myo Tun, a lawmaker representing Htantabin Township in the Lower House, said no law existed to allow action to be taken against lawmakers. “Though the anti-corruption law says action can be taken against anyone, it is not the case for lawmakers even if they do commit an offence,” he said.

The commission needs to seek the approval of the concerned parliamentary speaker before it can investigate lawmakers, and in the case of political position holders from deputy ministers and above, it might need to seek cabinet approval, he said.

“It is easy to take action against officials at the director-general and lower levels. But it is fairly difficult to take action against political position holders,” U Nay Myo Tun said.

There have also been criticisms over delays in enacting the right to recall law. Section 396 of the 2008 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 inefficient discharge of their duties.

The NLD has disciplined nearly 40 lawmakers for breach of party rules and regulations since the 2015 elections, according to party officials. However, the punishments have been limited to a warning and suspension from party duties.

After the 2020 election, the ruling party may however dismiss law-breaking lawmakers from the party depending on the number and extent of their offences, said a Yangon Region lawmaker on condition of anonymity. “It doesn’t expel them now perhaps because it doesn’t want to lose its power in the parliament,” he said.