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DVB reporter Shwe Aung spoke by phone on Tuesday with presidential spokesman Ye Htut, in response to a statement released by the National League for Democracy (NLD) on Monday. The statement criticised the government’s refusal to meet the NLD’s request for a quadripartite meeting on constitutional reform, claiming that the government’s delay indicates “unwillingness” to enact meaningful reform.
Q: The NLD issued a statement on Monday asserting that the president’s response to calls for a quadripartite meeting was intended to delay efforts to amend the constitution and signifies the government’s reluctance towards reform. Would you like to respond to the NLD statement?
A: We are not trying to delay the dialogue. The president has always been willing to meet and exchange views with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, every time she requests a meeting. However, the matter in hand right now is concerned with the constitution, and the demands include meeting with specific figures and following specific procedures. This is a task for the Union Parliament, and it requires listening to the opinions of political parties and organisations within and outside of the parliament. We are just pointing out that the meeting should be considered only after the parliament’s Joint-Committee for Reviewing the Constitution presents its report.
Moreover, the [timeframe] for amending the constitution does not concern the executive branch of the government. Since all matters relating to constitutional reform are being handled by the Union Parliament, timing the process is their responsibility.
Regarding the suggestion of unwillingness towards reforms, we don’t need to say much about it. Our government has already proven our genuine will for reforms through action in the past two years.
Q: Could delays in these discussions harm the President’s relationship with the NLD?
A: We don’t think so. We were genuinely discussing what we think is an appropriate answer to the NLD proposal. But we don’t know what their view on that is.
Q: The NLD has maintained that the president does not have full-authority over the matter and is using the parliament as an excuse to delay discussions. Do you have a response to this allegation?
A: It’s irrelevant. The president consistently answers in conformity with the constitution – we cannot give answers based on our opinions. The constitution says that undertakings related to amending the constitution are assigned to the parliament.
I think it was back in May when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi commented on remarks made by the president during his visit abroad, about the role of the Tatmadaw [Burmese military] in the country’s politics. She said that President Thein Sein’s remarks about reducing the military’s role in politics were out of line, as the president has no right to amend the constitution because it is a matter assigned to the parliament. Only the parliament should have a say in this.
We are bound to the constitution and only the constitution.
Q: Will the president’s office issue an official response to the NLD ‘s statement?
A: For now, I don’t know. It’s up to the president’s office and I am only giving my opinion here as a spokesperson.
Interviewed by Shwe Aung