Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Thura U Shwe Mann takes hluttaw reins

Incoming Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann sounded a conciliatory note to the government in his first address as leader of the combined houses of parliament.

Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann arrives for a ceremony to take over as Pyidaungsu Hluttaw speaker from U Khin Aung Myint on July 31. He will hold the post for 30 months. (Boothee/The Myanmar Times)Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann arrives for a ceremony to take over as Pyidaungsu Hluttaw speaker from U Khin Aung Myint on July 31. He will hold the post for 30 months. (Boothee/The Myanmar Times)

Thura U Shwe Mann, who is also speaker of the lower house, said the legislature, executive and judiciary should draw lessons from previous conflicts rather than blame each other.

“The governing bodies have to be loyal to the public and to the truth and dutifully carry out their responsibilities,” he said.

“They have to examine where the flaws or mistakes in the reform process are and find workable solutions for national unity, national reconciliation, rule of law and stability, and armed conflict. It’s time to carry out practical reforms … rather than blaming each other.”

He made the comments on July 31 after taking over as Pyi-daungsu Hluttaw speaker from Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker U Khin Aung Myint. Under the 2008 constitution, the upper house speaker leads the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw for the first half of the five-year parliamentary term, after which the lower house speaker assumes the responsibility.

President U Thein Sein, vice presidents Sai Mauk Kham and U Nyan Tun, Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the chief judge and members of the Supreme Court, Union Government ministers, and region and state hluttaw speakers all attended the hand-over ceremony.

U Khin Aung Myint said in his farewell speech that 58 laws had been enacted during his 30-month tenure as Pyidaungsu Hluttaw speaker, including 15 in 2011, 24 in 2012 and 19 so far this year. Of these, 49 were submitted by the government and nine by parliamentary committees and MPs, he said.

MPs told The Myanmar Times that a key test of Thura U Shwe Mann’s reign as Pyidaungsu Hluttaw speaker will be whether he can guide amendments to the constitution through the house with military support.

The amendments will be recommended by a recently formed 109-member committee chaired by U Nanda Kyaw Swar, the deputy speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.

“Although the speaker has changed, the legislative process should not change significantly. The most important challenge will be to change laws that need to be reformed before 2015,” said U Thein Nyunt, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Yangon’s Thingangyun township.

Amendments to the constitution will largely “depend on the leadership of [U Nanda Kyaw Swar] and the new speaker, Thura U Shwe Mann, and their political views and decisions”, he said.

U Saw Hla Tun, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Chaung Oo and secretary of the Joint Bill Committee, said he had faith in Thura U Shwe Mann’s ability to spearhead the reform process.

“The new speaker has promised to continue the achievements [of U Khin Aung Myint] during his term. I believe he will adopt a better approach and preserve the success we have had by learning from old lessons,” he said. “We all need to cooperate to carry out the recommendations of the committee for constitutional reforms before 2015.”

However, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – whose candidacy for the presidency after U Thein Sein depends on parliament’s ability to change the constitution – said constitutional reforms could be completed “within 30 days” if MPs work together.

“It will only take 30 days if they ... really want to make reforms to sections of the constitution that do not meet democratic norms,” she said.

However, she conceded that not everyone wanted to see the constitution changed.

“They drew the constitution as they wanted so there must be some who are stubborn [and do not want] to make reforms. I have known this for a long time.”

Translated by Zar Zar Soe