This Week in Parliament (Feb. 6-Feb.10)

By The Irrawaddy 11 February 2017

Monday (Feb. 6)

In the Lower House, lawmaker U Thaung Aye of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) representing Pyawbwe Township, asked if the Parliament had a plan to enact a law to recall lawmakers. U Aung Myint of the Union Election Commission (UEC) replied that the commission had been taking steps to soon submit the draft law on the right to recall.

According to Article 396 of the 2008 Constitution, to file a complaint to recall a lawmaker only needs signatures from a minimum of one percent of the electorate of the concerned constituency. During the first Parliament session, lawmakers discussed the introduction of changes to the right to recall, but it has since been suspended because of differing views among lawmakers on the percentage of voters required for a recall election.

Lawmaker U Pe Than of Myebon Constituency argued that private media could potentially die off in Burma because of the dominance of state-run media, which operates with public funds and enjoys a near monopoly over advertisements. Union Minister for Information U Pe Myint however justified the existence of state-run newspapers, arguing that they create no risk for private dailies.

In the Upper House, U Kyaw Swe of Magwe Division (11) asked the government about its procedures to eliminate biased practices in the appointment, transfer and promotion of civil servants. The chairman of the Union Civil Service Board in response mentioned a number of laws that are applied to fight against biased practices.

Tuesday (Feb. 7)

In the Lower House, lawmaker U Tun Tun of Pwintbyu Township asked a question about taxation on planes of international airlines that cross the country’s air territory. Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications U Kyaw Myo said that the number of airplanes that crossed the country’s air territory is a maximum of 600 flights per day. He added that the ministry had earned nearly US$58.5 million as of Dec. 13, 2016 in the 2016-17 fiscal year; and that the ministry handed over the money to the government weekly.

U Win Aung of Moemauk Township urged the Union government to increase the winnings in the country’s lottery system by imposing less tax on the money brought in from such schemes. Currently, the government imposes a 40 percent tax on these sums, giving the remaining 60 percent as prizes.

In the Upper House, lawmakers voted to abolish the Myanmar International Cooperation Agency, a quasi-governmental agency established in 2012, after lawmaker Dr. Akar Moe of Karen State Constituency (7) accused the agency directors of lining their own pockets with the agency’s profits.

Wednesday (Feb. 8)

In Union Parliament, lawmakers discussed the President’s proposal to spend 3.6 billion kyats (US$2.6 million) from the government’s reserve funds for socio-economic development projects in Arakan State, and to obtain a loan of nearly 10.8 billion yen from the Japan International Cooperation Agency for the major overhaul of hydropower plants.

Thursday (Feb. 9)

In the Lower House, U Maung Myint of Minkin Township asked if the government had a plan to control the killing of cows and buffaloes while the country shifts from conventional farming methods to more mechanized agriculture. But after the lawmaker mentioned the number of cows slaughtered for the Muslim “Festival of Sacrifice” known as Eid-al-Adha, the Lower House speaker stopped him from continuing his question, citing a parliamentary rule that inquiries muddled with religious matters are prohibited from being asked in the legislature.

In the Upper House, U Sai Htun Aung of Shan State Constituency (2) asked if the Ministry of Defense would return sections of a road in Laikha Township of Loilem District in southern Shan State taken over by the Light Infantry Battalion No. 515 for its cantonment. The deputy minister for defense replied that the area had been under military ownership since 1994, and that civilians are allowed to use the road, though the battalion makes security checks, and that the ministry would not give up the area because of security reasons.

Friday (Feb. 10)

In the Lower House, lawmaker U Maung Maung Oo of Insein Township alleged that the government had been conducting surveillance on lawmakers. Though the deputy minister for Home Affairs, Maj-Gen Aung Soe, denied the allegation, Lower House speaker U Win Myint urged the Bill Committee to enact a bill to prevent citizens from being subjected to state surveillance and intrusion by the end of the fourth regular session of the Parliament.

In the Upper House, lawmaker U Saw Moe Myint of Karen State (1) asked if environmental and social impact assessment reports had yet been submitted to Ministry of Resources and Environmental Conservation for the operation of Myaing Galay cement plant in Karen State’s Hpa-an with coal instead of natural gas. Minister U Ohn Win replied that his ministry had not yet received an environmental assessment report or an environmental management plan from the cement plant. Other cement plants operating with coal in Kyaukse, Tikyit and Nawngkhio townships also have yet to submit reports. U Ohn Win said that his ministry would ask them to submit them.