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Htay Oo: ‘The previous government shaped this system for us’

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party’s vice-chair Htay Oo talks with DVB’s Aung Htun Myint about amending the country’s controversial constitution, the National Race Protection Draft Law and challenges his party faces ahead of the 2015 elections.

First, can you give us a comment about the parliament’s plan to form a commission tasked with reviewing constitutional amendments?

The proposal was submitted in the parliament by the USDP’s vice-chair Thura Aye Myint. It’s not that we are implying that the constitution is definitely going to be amended, but it’s merely for the parliament to make considerations on legislative grounds because matters with the constitution are too important – they do not only concern the parliament, but also the public and the government.

Where does the USDP stand on amending the constitution?

We have to consider whether the amendments would be harmful to the sovereignty of the state, which has always been a factor for us. Moreover, we have a lot of ethnic groups in Burma, so we also have to focus on the non-disintegration of national solidarity as well as the non-disintegration of the union.

In my opinion, whether it’s a law or the constitution, the interests of the union should be prioritised first. So basically all these are factored into the 2008 constitution, at least in the text, but whether the [constitutional clauses] are implemented or not depends on power sharing between the union government and a regional cabinet – if there are loopholes between them.

There are ethnic nationality representatives, from all divisions and states, in the parliament. First, as practical work, we are verifying whether there are rights approved by the constitution that they are still unable to enjoy, and then we’ll brainstorm about the results. But one thing is for sure; we will focus on helping the country and the people.

Does this mean you will support amending the constitution?

If it’s necessary, yes.

What is your comment about the popular National Race Protection Draft Law (which contains provisions concerning the restriction of interfaith marriage) being put forward by leading Buddhist monks?

It’s about Wunthanu Rethkita [the Nationalist Principles] practiced by every nation. I don’t know what’s in the law, although its title ‘National Race Protection’ sounds noble. But of course, there will be clauses that see to the protection of one’s country and race in the laws we draft, but the most important thing is that – there are undesirable problems in our country today and those need to end. Instigation and confusion must be prevented.

So you think the ongoing violence is undesirable – some have said these problems were inherited from the previous government?

I don’t think this was an inheritance from the previous government – it depends on each individual’s personal opinion and what they base it on. One thing is for sure, the [democratic] system we are in now was set up by the previous government e.g. the parliament building was built by the previous government and without it, where would our venue for hosting the parliamentary sessions be. The previous government shaped this system for us and there may be obstructions and hindrances, but we need a collective effort to deal with them – I wouldn’t prefer putting the blame on this or that person.

Some say that there has been a deliberate attempt by a group of individuals to interfere with the country’s democratic transition by instigating riots.

It’s surely an ill intention, if true. I resent that and so would the party as well as the government and the parliament.

What challenges are the USDP facing ahead of the 2015 elections and how are you preparing for those?

There are things that we wish for, things that should happen and things that can happen. We are starting with things that should happen and that can happen – there are also a lot of things we wish for. And if everyone works together in unity, everything will improve. So if our wishes come true, then it’s good, otherwise we’ll call it a challenge.

Recently, U Shwe Mann expressed his wish to become the president and so did Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. What is your opinion?

They are both competent individuals but since there’s only one [presidential position], they would have to compete – and show the public how much they could do for them. As for me, I don’t want to give any comment.


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