Thu 15 Aug 2013
Filed under: Inside Burma,News,Parliament
MPs have slammed the president for refusing to sign the Region/State Hluttaw Bill 2013 on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
The government published a press release in state newspapers on August 8 outlining nine changes the president had proposed to the draft originally approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw in February. However, MPs rejected all of the proposed changes.
In a message to Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann, the president asked him to take “necessary measures” as some sections were not “in accord with the constitution, the existing laws and main democratic practices” and therefore “cannot be signed by the president”.
However, under the constitution, all bills approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw become law within seven days regardless of whether the president signs them. It appears likely the Region/State Hluttaw Bill 2013 will be sent to the Constitutional Tribunal for assessment.
MPs said the government’s reaction showed it did not want to cooperate with MPs for the good of the country.
“This law was drafted particularly to improve joint efforts between MPs and governments on important issues. In reality, government officials do not dare to cooperate with MPs because the constitution states they should not participate in political activities,” said Daw Nan Whar Nu, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Kunhein, in reference to section 9(e) of the bill.
“The president did not sign the points that were particularly intended to support the interests of the public and country through cooperation between MPs and the government. It means he is not willing to cooperate,” she said.
Another point of contention is section 2(h), which designates region or state hluttaw committees as state-level organisations. A similar dispute over the status of Pyidaungsu Hluttaw committees led to the impeachment of the Constitutional Tribunal last year.
U Thein Nyunt, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Thingangyun, said the press release was “not unusual”, as the government had issued a similar statement over its unhappiness with the Pyithu Hluttaw Law and Amyotha Hluttaw Law.
“I don’t want to say anything about it because this is the president’s right under the constitution. But under constitution section 106, the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw can approve the bill without accepting the president’s recommendations and the bill will still become law whether [or not] the president signs it,” he said.
U Ye Tun, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Hsipaw, said he was certain the matter would end up before the Constitutional Tribunal.
“The constitution is not clear on some issues and it appears the president’s advisory team gives him advice on matters where there is a lack of clarity,” he said. “We have to wait to see how the Constitutional Tribunal will respond to the statement from the President’s Office.
“It is concerning that the Constitutional Tribunal may have to decide on every law that is passed by the parliament.”
But while there are clear divisions between the government and the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, it appears the president is not going to block every contentious bill. On August 9, the government issued a similar statement expressing its objections to the Anti-Corruption Bill, which was passed by parliament last month after MPs rejected 10 of the president’s 12 proposed amendments.
He warned that the bill did not properly define corruption and mostly targets bribery. “The bill needs to cover wide-ranging subjects as corruption includes abuse of power, bribery and deliberate negligence,” he said.
As a result, the president warned the law may not meet the criteria for anti-corruption legislation set by the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which the government ratified in December 2012.
“Despite the above-mentioned circumstances,” the president said in the statement. “I signed the bill approved by the majority of MPs with respect to the wish of the majority.”
Translated by Zar Zar Soe