An alliance of ethnic political parties has called for the amendment of Burma’s 2008 Constitution to prevent the president from appointing administrative regional chief ministers.
The Nationalities Brotherhood Federation (NBF) released a statement demanding amendments be made to Article 261 following it’s 23rd regular annual meeting on the 23 and 24 May in Karen State’s Hpa-an and Mon State’s Moulmein, respectively.
The statement released on Monday calls for regional parliaments to appoint their own chief ministers, rather than permitting appointment to the positions by presidential decree. It was signed by representatives of its 10 member parties: the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, Chin National Democratic Party, All Mon Regions Democracy Party, Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, Asho-Chin National Party, Inntha National Development Party, Federal Union Party, Karenni Nationalities Democracy Party, and the Ethnic Nationalities Development Party.
Representatives of 12 non-NBF member ethnic parties also attended the meeting as observers.
Article 261 of the Constitution provides that “the president can nominate any suitable representative of parliament who has the prescribed qualifications to become a chief minister from among the regional parliament representatives, and submit the list of elected representatives to the regional parliament concerned for its approval. The regional parliament has no power to reject his nomination unless it can clearly prove that the person nominated does not meet the qualifications.
The NBF urged the government to amend the article prior to this year’s elections, tipped to take place at the end of October or the beginning of November.
According to Pu Zozam, chairman of the Chin National Democratic Party, the NBF prioritises the amendment of Article 261 ahead of other necessary changes to the charter as it directly concerns ethnic populations across Burma.
“We would like our regional chief ministers to be representatives elected by the concerned ethnic populations. Previously, the regional chief ministers appointed in our regions were individuals from elsewhere who had been handpicked by the president. This was professionally inconvenient as deep down they are merely guests here, and therefore can not work as hard as a native minister,” said Pu Zozam.
“We would like, at a minimum, to have Article 261 amended ahead of the elections,” he added.
The statement also denounced parties that claim they represent the Union of Burma while representing neither ethnic populations nor taking an interest in ethnic affairs.
“We are referring to certain political party leaders who don’t offer any roles to ethnic politicians in the country, yet keep using the subject of ethnic nationalities for their political gain,” he said without specifying which party leaders his criticisms were aimed at.