Military MP questions Shwe Mann-led legal commission’s constitutionality

Military MP questions Shwe Mann-led legal commission’s constitutionality

A military MP on Monday challenged the constitutionality of the Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Cases, a body led by Shwe Mann, the former parliamentary speaker and retired general.

Brigadier General Maung Maung, a military representative in the Lower House of the bicameral legislature, called the commission into question on Monday as lawmakers considered extending its mandate for another year and replacing a member of the body who recently stepped down. He said the commission’s continued existence was not in conformity with the Constitution.

“The 2008 Constitution does not provide for the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [Union Parliament] to form a commission. Article 118, sub-article [a] of the Constitution empowers the Pyithu Hluttaw [Lower House] to form commissions, and the Amyotha Hluttaw [Upper House] has the same power under Article 150,” the militarily appointed lawmaker said.

“The Constitution bestows the power to form parliamentary commissions to only the Pyithu and Amyotha hluttaws, but not the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.”

Maung Maung added that the bicameral Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Cases was formed with a temporary mandate and suggested it should be dissolved and replaced with separate commissions formed by the two chambers of Parliament.

“The commission, unlike other parliamentary committees, does not have a permanent mandate; it was only to serve a temporary term, to assess issues outside of the parliamentary committees’ mandates. We have seen the undertakings by the commission to abolish and revise legislation, which should be the mandate of commissions formed by the Pyithu and Amyotha hluttaws, in accordance with the Constitution.”

On Wednesday, 50 military representatives in Parliament signed on to a motion urging Burma’s Constitutional Tribunal to weigh in on the legality of the Union Parliament’s Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Cases.

Maung Maung on Monday said the commission should not see its mandate extended or new members appointed before the Constitutional Tribunal hands down its decision on the matter. Parliament, however, decided to go ahead with an extension of the commission through a majority vote by MPs, despite the objection of the military representatives.

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As head of the commission, Shwe Mann has continued to play a role in law-making despite losing his bid for re-election in the November 2015 general election. Last year the commission recommended that more than 100 existing laws be scrapped or amended.

Tensions between Shwe Mann and a faction of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the military-backed former ruling party, culminated in his ouster as USDP chairman in the lead-up to the election. The former Lower House speaker was said to have been stripped of his leadership post for pushing an agenda too closely aligned with that of then-opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Now Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi tapped Shwe Mann to chair the Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Cases in February 2016.

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