Mon 30 Apr 2012
Filed under: Inside Burma
An ongoing dispute between parliament and the government over the status of parliamentary committees has taken a new twist.
In response to a recent Constitutional Tribunal ruling that “the definition of the committees as union-level bodies does not conform with clauses in the constitution”, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw last week approved a Joint Bill Committee finding that the committees had been formed in conformity with the law and were union level.
Lawmakers have interpreted the ruling – and the wrangling that preceded it – as an attempt to reduce parliamentary oversight of government activities. While discussing the issue last week, some representatives suggested the hluttaw should seek to change the constitution so as to enshrine the status of the committees and further discussions on the issue are due to take place on April 30.
Speaking on April 24, committee chairman and Amyotha Hluttaw Deputy Speaker U Mya Nyein told the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw that the union-level status of parliamentary committees was supported by sections of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law, Amyotha Hluttaw Law, Union Attorney-General Law and Union Auditor-General Law, which “state that union-level bodies are those formed according to the constitution, like the Union Government and National Defence and Security Council and the bodies formed by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw”.
He cited section 47 of the constitution, which states that “the term ‘union’ means person or body exercising the legislative or executive authority of the union under this constitution as the context may require”.
“So the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw and committees and commissions that are exercising legislative authority and the bodies they form can be designated as up to union level,” he said.
He argued that the Constitutional Tribunal had “no right to scrutinise whether the committees are union-level bodies” as this was contrary to section 46 of the constitution, which outlines the tribunal’s responsibilities.
The committee also reported that 22 laws issued by the State Peace and Development Council in 2010, including the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law, Pyithu Hluttaw Law and Amyotha Hluttaw Law, should be scrutinised to ensure they conform with the constitution so as to avoid a constitutional crisis.
Ten representatives discussed the committee’s report on April 26 and all voiced support for its findings.
U Ye Tun from Hsipaw said the Constitutional Tribunal had misinterpreted the attorney-general’s reasons for referring the matter for adjudication.
“On behalf of the president, the attorney-general submitted an application to the Constitutional Tribunal to define the term ‘union-level body’ so as to make it clear and accurate because it is not separately defined in the constitution. The constitutional tribunal then decided that ‘defining committees, commissions and bodies formed by different hluttaws as union level does not conform with the clauses in the constitution’,” he said. “The president asked [the tribunal] to do one thing but it did something else instead.”
To support the union-level status of committees, U Ye Tun cited section 71 of the constitution, which states that a body formed by a hluttaw can ask the respective hluttaw to investigate and take legal action against people, including the chairman and members of the Constitutional Tribunal, members of union-level bodies formed according to the constitution and the president and vice presidents to impeach them for one of reasons mentioned in section 71(a).”
“According to section 71 and its sub-sections, the bodies of the different hluttaws of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw can form can be considered as union level or even higher. Since section 324 of the constitution states that the decision of the Constitutional Tribunal is final, we should not proceed with the matter any more but should amend the constitution so that it expressly states that [parliamentary] committees, commissions and bodies … are union-level organisations,” U Ye Tun said.
Daw Tin Nwe Oo from North Dagon was slightly more succinct. “The Constitutional Tribunal assessed something it has no authority to look at and its decision does not conform with the constitution, so [the decision] is incorrect,” she said.
No objections were raised so Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker U Khin Aung Myint said a “strong” motion should be submitted based on the discussions. The proposal is scheduled to be discussed on April 30. – Translated by Thit Lwin