Bill committee seeks to lay ground rules for referendum

Bill committee seeks to lay ground rules for referendum

A representative of Burma’s parliamentary Bill Committee on Thursday raised in the lower house the issue of the constitutional referendum that has been slated for May 2015, saying that such a proposal would require the adoption of a National Referendum Bill.

Saw Hla Tun, secretary of the Bill Committee, said, “At the moment, the Union Parliament is debating constitution reform, and if the plan goes ahead, a national referendum will be held next year in accordance with constitutional Article 436.*

“We propose that a National Referendum Bill be established to facilitate procedures and regulations for the referendum and the formation of relevant committees.”

Speaking to DVB on Thursday, Supreme Court lawyer Ko Ni said Burma has previously held two national referendums without systematic procedures or regulations.

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“Two referendums were held in the past and no law was passed that regulated either,” he said. “In the 1974 referendum on the socialist Constitution, people were simply told to go cast their votes at polling stations. In 2008, procedures and regulations were issued by a Referendum Commission,” he said.

“So it is a bit strange that parliament now wants to adopt a set of laws for a national referendum – it could be that they want to be more systematic – but we won’t be able to judge that until we see the text in the bill.”

Earlier this week, Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann said at a press conference in Naypyidaw that a referendum on constitution amendments would be held in May.

The ongoing parliamentary debate on constitutional reform continues and is due to conclude on 25 November.

*Article 436 stipulates that any constitutional amendment requires the approval of 75 percent of parliament. Pro-democracy groups complain the clause is undemocratic because it provides the military – which is appointed 25 percent of parliamentary seats – effective veto power on any proposed amendments. 

 

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