Friday, August 18, 2017

Rakhine hluttaw to debate state advisory commission

A Rakhine State lawmaker forged ahead yesterday with an effort to continue stoking controversy over the recent formation of an advisory commission for the state chaired by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Buddhist nationalists stage a protest against the Rakhine State Advisory Commission in Sittwe on September 6. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar TimesBuddhist nationalists stage a protest against the Rakhine State Advisory Commission in Sittwe on September 6. Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw / The Myanmar Times

At the first day of the state legislature’s second session, U Kyaw Zaw Oo (Arakan National Party; Sittwe 2) submitted a proposal objecting to the Rakhine State Advisory Commission formed by the Union government last month, urging the hluttaw not to recognise the body.

He argued that the commission lacked legitimacy because it was created without the consent of ethnic minorities, including his state’s Rakhine majority in particular.

Lawmakers in the state legislature voted to continue debate on the proposal, likely later this week.

U Kyaw Zaw Oo acknowledged the defeat of a similar motion in the Pyithu Hluttaw last week, but contended that the Rakhine State parliament deserved its own discussion on the commission, given that its work will focus on conditions in the state.

“Parliament [in Nay Pyi Taw] rejected the proposal on September 6. However, we submitted one again in the state parliament because the decision of the state parliament is the most important as the issue is mainly related to Rakhine State,” said U Kyaw Zaw Oo.

The proposal, among other points, raises concern about possible adverse effects of the commission and its recommendations.

According to state hluttaw MPs, discussion on the objection proposal could take place at a session as soon as tomorrow.

“We absolutely agree with the proposal as it concerns all Rakhine ethnics,” said lawmaker U Aung Win (ANP; Myebon 1). “Although the proposal failed in the Union-level parliament, we asked the Speaker of the state parliament to submit a [similar] proposal about the Rakhine commission.”

The nine-member Rakhine State Advisory Commission was formed on August 23 via a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor and the Kofi Annan Foundation.

In addition to the Ghanaian Mr Annan, it includes former UN officials from Lebanon and Norway, as well as six Myanmar nationals, including both Buddhists and Muslims.

The commission has been tasked with finding solutions to ease inter-religious tensions that linger after violence between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012, as well as proposing development strategies for the state, which is one of Myanmar’s poorest.

Opponents of its composition have argued that the presence of foreigners on the commission risked undermining the country’s sovereignty and encouraged outside intervention in Myanmar’s domestic affairs.

A protest against the commission by Buddhist nationalists on September 11 turned violent as locals and participants confronted one another in Yangon.

Translation by Win Thaw Tar