Saturday, August 19, 2017

Shwe Mann to hold press conference as Tatmadaw takes a swipe

The recently expelled former head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party Thura U Shwe Mann will hold an urgent press conference today to bring attention to what he has termed the wrongful ousting of himself and 16 other party members.

Thura U Shwe Mann speaks to reporters after the first session of the new parliment in Nay Pyi Taw on February 1. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar TimesThura U Shwe Mann speaks to reporters after the first session of the new parliment in Nay Pyi Taw on February 1. Photo: Aung Khant / The Myanmar Times

The USDP has long been subject to infighting as camps loyal to rival factions – led by former president U Thein Sein on one side and Thura U Shwe Mann on the other – have repeatedly come to a head. Just one day after U Thein Sein regained the mantle as party chair, the 17 members were informed of their dismissal.

The expelled camp, which includes members appointed to the parliamentary advisory Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Issues, are perceived to be close allies to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy. The collaboration has been perceived as undermining the military’s hold on the party, which has often served as a political vehicle for the armed forces.

Adding to the sting of the dismissals, the Tatmadaw yesterday issued a statement accusing Thura U Shwe Mann of endangering the military’s image and rejecting him as a “brother” of the Defence Services Academy.

According to the statement, Thura U Shwe Mann described the current government as one elected by the people, and so pledged to serve it responsibly to better national and public interests.

“Such a description suggests that the governments that have emerged throughout the history of the country since independence have never served the nation’s interests,” said the military press unit statement.

“U Shwe Mann’s comments are ignorant of the military’s consistent stance since the pre-election period continuing through the post-transitional period pledging that the Tatmadaw will cooperate with the new government elected by the people.

“It is inflammatory to suggest the Tatmadaw is not cooperating well,” said the statement, adding that the sentiment stokes a deliberate “misunderstanding” of the Tatmadaw’s position.

Thura U Shwe Mann was the third most powerful man during the reign of the State Peace and Development Council under U Than Shwe and served in the Tatmadaw for more than four decades before joining the USDP. After shedding his uniform, he ran in the 2010 general election winning a seat in Nay Pyi Taw. Thura U Shwe Mann was tipped to become the first president after years of the military regime’s reign. However, the job passed him by and he became the Speaker instead.

He did not feign to keep his continued presidential aspirations a secret even as U Thein Sein mulled whether he would consider serving a second term. But it was his support of constitutional amendments, specifically sections guaranteeing the military’s 25 percent, unelected parliamentary bloc, that rankled his former colleagues. Shortly afterward he was ousted as USDP chair in a party coup.

A central executive member of the USDP said that Thura U Shwe Mann will get a chance to explain his side of the infighting at today’s conference.

“Thura U Shwe Mann tried to redeem the party’s reputation and when he could make a progress, the group which has a strong desire for power sacked him,” said the USDP member who asked not to be named.

Translation by Zar Zar Soe