Rakhine Lawmakers Push for Regional Minister’s Impeachment

By Moe Myint 6 December 2017

YANGON—Rakhine State Lower House Speaker San Kyaw Hla on Monday established a five-member team to investigate lawmakers’ claims that state Municipal Affairs Minister Min Aung has failed to perform his duties properly.

Lawmakers said they were not properly consulted on the state budget the minister presented to Parliament, and have raised concerns about what they claim are his careless comments on sensitive issues.

On Nov. 29, 17 members of the state Parliament from the Arakan National Party (ANP), the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) lodged a letter of complaint against Min Aung. San Kyaw Hla has declined to disclose the lawmakers’ identities or specific charges.

Of the seats in the Rakhine Parliament, nine are held by the NLD, three by the USDP, 21 by the ANP, one by an independent and 12 are reserved for the military.

In accordance with parliamentary procedure, the House speaker established an investigative panel that includes at least one representative of each political party. According to an official announcement released by Parliament, lawmakers have demanded the minister be impeached, claiming his dereliction of duty has harmed the nation and the public interest.

Responding to the move, Min Aung said, “I have no idea about the accusations. I will be able to tell you more after Parliament resolves it.” The minister will get a chance to defend himself when the state Parliament resumes its regular session on Dec. 19.

NLD-appointed Min Aung is the first regional government minister to be targeted for impeachment since the current Union government took power two years ago. He is also the spokesperson for the State Government, frequently appearing alongside Chief Minister Nyi Pu.

A member of the investigation team, NLD lawmaker Naing Kywe Aye, told The Irrawaddy over the phone on Wednesday that lawmakers would submit details to the House speaker during the forthcoming parliamentary session to assist the panel in establishing whether the minister is guilty or not.

The lawmaker cited the dissatisfaction expressed by MPs during a parliamentary session earlier this week after Min Aung presented the government’s budget for fiscal 2018-19 and announced a tender for a project to develop three-story markets in Gwa, Tungup, and Kyauktaw without seeking parliamentary approval for the projects.

Asked by The Irrawaddy whether the regional minister had violated parliamentary procedure, Naing Kywe Aye said, “Of course. Even after the regional Parliament approves the fiscal year budget, it still needs the approval of the Union Parliament. After that, a tender process can start. I think lawmakers will add that as one of the topics [to be investigated].”

Naing Kywe Aye admitted that Parliament had received several complaints related to Min Aung’s lack of transparency in handling construction project tenders.

“To verify the cases, we will summon some of the losing bidders who filed complaint letters,” he said.

Online, there has been much discussion of the fact that this is not the first time tension has flared between the ANP and the NLD. In March 2016, Arakanese lawmakers walked out of Parliament to protest Nyi Pu’s was appointed chief minister.

Several outspoken lawmakers have complained that state Cabinet members consistently ignore the role of elected civilian lawmakers.

“Whenever Cabinet members are called on to answer questions in Parliament, one regional minister attends and offers incomplete answers to lawmakers’ questions on behalf of the other ministers. Then they decline to answer follow-up questions from legislators,” Naing Kywe Aye said.

Than Maung Oo, an independent Arakanese lawmaker representing Ramree constituency (2), said a rift had developed between lawmakers and state-level Cabinet members over the ministers’ refusal to provide comprehensive answers to lawmakers’ questions.

He corroborated Naing Kywe Aye’s claim that the 2018-19 fiscal year budget was drafted by government officials and submitted to the Parliament without going through a consultation process involving lawmakers.

Lawmakers oppose the proposed budget, claiming government bureaucrats have allocated huge sums to their departments, in amounts that exceed the development budget for the entire state.

Than Maung Oo said there were not enough ministers in the current state government to properly handle all of the Cabinet portfolios. “Take the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry, for example. It has 12 directors general. So one minister cannot keep track of what their staff are doing on the ground,” the lawmaker said. After coming to power, the NLD consolidated the state Cabinet, reducing the number of ministries to six (not including the Ministry of Border Affairs, which is fully controlled by the Myanmar Army). As a result, each minister has to manage nearly a dozen departments, stretching the capabilities of less experienced ministers in particular, critics of the policy say.

Lawmakers also accuse Min Aung of having been careless on several occasions in his comments about sensitive questions raised in Parliament.

“Speaking in Parliament on behalf of the border affairs minister, he recklessly answered questions regarding an incident that left a number of local people dead before the Aug. 25 serial attacks,” Than Maung Oo said.