A member of the Rangoon Division legislature’s Judicial and Legal Affairs, Complaints and Appeals Committee has said corruption remains prevalent in the judiciary nearly one year after the National League for Democracy government took office.
Yan Aung, who is also a lawmaker in the Rangoon parliamentary assembly, said more than 500 complaints received by the committee — the majority of all complaints over the past year — were regarding corruption and bribery in the judicial sector. The divisional MP stressed the need for the government to tackle the situation immediately.
“Corruption is still prevalent,” said Yan Aung. “There are some [government officials] who are for reforms but also there are those who cling to the old ways and mind-set, and they don’t want to change the way things work no matter how much we would like them to.”
He added, “We have been inspecting courthouses and heard many allegations of judges demanding bribes.”
Tackling graft and bolstering the rule of law were two of the NLD’s main pledges as the party campaigned ahead of the 2015 election, which saw it sweep to power. Other pledges included bringing about nationwide peace and amending the 2008 Constitution.
Legal expert Tin Than Oo said the NLD government, for the moment, must prioritise achieving peace in the country over fighting corruption.
Still, “The country is reaching a point where even lawyers no longer have confidence in the law,” said Tin Than Oo. “Every case brought before the Union Supreme Court has been turned down and it is questionable as to why.”
Prominent lawyer Kyi Myint called for an overhaul of the nation’s top court.
“The Supreme Court must be reformed,” he said. “At the moment, the Supreme Court is short of judges — there are five vacancies and those need to be filled immediately. And then the Supreme Court should thoroughly supervise local and regional courts and scrutinise their rulings.”
According to the 2008 Constitution, a minimum of seven judges and maximum 11, including the chief justice, may be appointed to the Supreme Court. At the moment, there are only five sitting judges.
The Rangoon parliament’s Judicial and Legal Affairs, Complaints and Appeals Committee in August began scrutinising courthouses, legal offices and police stations in the division, with plans to eventually present its findings to the government.
Burma ranked 136th out of 176 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2016, released in January.