Burma: Developments this week

In Uncategorized on 21/09/2012 at 6:46 am

Earlier this week, FT reported Burma is to delay the implementation of controversial foreign investment legislation passed this month, but will step up reforms in areas like financial services, land use and government structures.

Seems the president will ask parly to make changes to the foreign investment law. So this compromise did not work.

This is what the ISEAS Monitor (Sept issue) wrote juz before the compromise and its analysis is spot-on.

Myanmar is being confronted with a serious challenge to the rule of law and the integrity of the constitutional arrangement by a controversy over the ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal (CT) regarding the status of parliamentary bodies. It began when parliamentarians insisted that committees, commissions and bodies formed by parliament be accorded the status of “Union” (central) level organisations in order to fulfill their ‘check and balance’ function.

A request to clarify the issue was sent to the President early this year. The Attorney-General, on behalf of the President, submitted the issue to the CT for a ruling. The CT ruled, in February, that the interpretation of committees, commissions and bodies “formed by each Hluttaw [parliament] as Union Level Organisations” was unconstitutional. Many parliamentarians did not accept the verdict and 191 MPs from the Pyithu Hluttaw (PH; lower house) informed its Speaker in April theirintention to table a motion calling for the impeachment of the CT chair and members.

When negotiations to resolve the dispute failed, 301 MPs from the PH again prompted the Speaker, on 8 August, for the impeachment citing breach of constitutional provisions and failure to fulfill their duties. The Speaker sent amessage to the President on 14 August suggesting that the Attorney-General’ssubmission to the CT be withdrawn and the CT chair and members should resign voluntarily before 21 August. The President replied in a message, dated 20 August,to the Speaker that the submission could not be withdrawn because the verdict hadalready been reached and he could not act to make the CT chair and members, who had independently made a decision in accordance with the Constitution, resign as that would be unfair and against the law.

The CT also held a press conference on 20 August to explain its position and reaffirmits commitment to stand by the decision and to carry on its tasks and duties.

Subsequently, it was announced that the impeachment process would be initiatedby the Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house) in the current parliamentary session. The spectre of political division looms.

Key points: The CT and MPs are on a collision course. This could arrest the momentum of much-needed political and economic reforms, and erode the legitimacy of the democratic institution. In the worst case, it could be an excuse for the return of authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is visiting the US, has said she supports further easing of sanctions against Burma’s government.

And M’sian retailer, Parkson, plans to expand into Burma, despite its not so happy experiences in Vietnam.

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