A bill put forward by Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) leader Dr Aye Maung that proposes amending the Political Parties Registration Law to prohibit non-citizens from contesting elections has been approved for discussion in the upper house.
Aye Maung said he submitted the bill to change the Political Parties Registration Law as the current mandate allows “non-citizen Bengalis” to be elected to parliament, something he said poses a threat to the country’s sovereignty.
“We have to consider whether a non-citizen or a temporary citizen should have the right to be a founder or a member of a political party running in the elections – with the intention of manipulating the country’s sovereignty. According to our constitution, this right is reserved for citizens only,” he said.
Under Article 4(a) of the Political Parties Registration Law, “citizens, associate citizens, naturalized citizens and temporary citizens” may establish a political party.
“We need to seriously review that law from a strategic point of view, and ensure that it does not jeopardise the safeguarding of national security and national interests,” he asserted.
Aye Maung cited a report by the Arakan Riot Investigation Commission which claimed the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) had issued “white cards” to Bengalis, which is how Rohingyas are frequently described in Burma, in exchange for their votes during the 2010 general election. He said this act had allowed members of the “white-card Bengali community” to run in the election and be elected into the lower house.
Upon submission of Aye Maung’s bill in parliament on 23 August, USDP representative Hla Swe objected, stating that the country’s previous rulers had put a great deal of thought into the wording and substance of this particular article.
“I didn’t draft the law – it was introduced by the previous State Peace and Development Council government,” said Hla Swe. “The article was meant to provide breathing space – to prevent the situation from deteriorating – a measure similar to allowing the military to have 25 percent of parliamentary seats otherwise they would stage a coup.”
“The previous government were no fools,” he said. “They considered this matter thoroughly.”
Hla Swe said Burma should accept that the various ethnicities in the border region tend to migrate back and forth across the border. He noted that he had spent nine years in Arakan state and was aware that, in addition to the white-card-holding Rohingya community, many other individuals carried pink, green and blue cards which were all recognized under the 1982 Citizenship Law.
Colour-coded “Citizens Scrutiny Cards” were first introduced in 1989 as follows: pink cards for full citizens; blue cards for associate citizens; green for naturalised citizens. The Rohingya were not issued with any cards. In 1995, in response to UNHCR’s advocacy efforts to document the Rohingyas, the Burmese authorities started issuing them with white Temporary Registration Cards.