The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw has approved the nomination of Ayeyarwady Region Hluttaw Speaker U San Sint as the new minister for religious affairs, despite his preference to remain in the speaker post.
The January 31 appointment is likely to prove controversial, as U San Sint had been an outspoken critic of the Ayeyarwady Region government and also senior Union Solidarity and Development Party officials, who he accused of interfering in the regional hluttaw’s affairs.
U San Sint told The Myanmar Times on February 1 that he was not surprised at the nomination being approved “because MPs cannot vote against me if I meet the criteria to be a union minister”.
He declined to say who he thought would replace him as Ayeyarwady Region Hluttaw speaker.
“Although the chief minister is appointed by the president, the speaker is elected by the hluttaw representatives,” he said.
Following the announcement, a signature campaign was launched in Pathein, with about 1000 residents signing a petition calling for U San Sint to remain as speaker. In Pantanaw township, residents even demonstrated at 11am on February 1.
“We want U San Sint as our Hluttaw Speaker because he always stands up for us whenever we faced problems concerning fishing licences,” said U San Lay, a resident of Pathein who signed the petition.
U San Sint said he was surprised at the public show of support.
“Some of region hluttaw representatives rang me and told me about it. I did not expect that the people would do that for me,” he said.
President U Thein Sein nominated U San Sint in a letter to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on January 22, following the resignation of Thura U Aung Myint six days earlier. However, it was not voted on until the next sitting day, which took place on January 31.
After the hluttaw announced the appointment of U San Sint, U Mann Maung Maung Nyan, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Pantanaw township in Ayeyarwady Region, said that the hluttaw should ask whether U San Sint wanted to accept the position.
“We should ask his desire because we need him as hluttaw speaker of our region because rule of law in our region is faltering. There are confrontations between farmers and companies in many places because of land grabbing and [U San Sint] is able to manage these cases,” U Mann Maung Maung Nyan told the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.
But the speaker, U Khin Aung Myint, replied that the hluttaw had approved the nomination “in accordance with the rules and regulations”.
“The duty of the hluttaw is just to approve the nomination or not approve it,” the speaker said.
U Ye Tun, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Hsipaw, said the appointment process in Myanmar differed from other countries, such as the United States, where presidential appointments could be debated by parliament
“We can’t say no to someone the president has nominated if they meet the criteria,” he said.
Speaking before the nomination vote, U San Sint said he believed he could serve the nation more actively as Ayeyarwady Region Hluttaw speaker.
“It will be decided by Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw. I will remain here if the parliament dismisses the president’s proposal,” he said.
He said he didn’t think the president’s nomination was related to his criticism of the Ayeyarwady Region government or the USDP leadership.
Translated by Thiri Min Htun