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MP calls on media to employ ‘polite usage’ when criticising parliament

Parliamentarian Thein Nyunt called on journalists to use “polite usage” and have a “positive attitude” when criticising the country’s parliament, according to a report in The New Light of Myanmar on Saturday.

The MP from the New National Democratic party went on to instruct journalists to distinguish between parliamentarians’ mistakes and “opinions”.

Thein Nyunt comments were aired during a conversation surrounding the creation of a commission tasked with taking action against a notorious blogger, after the unidentified writer published critical remarks about the legislative body’s performance last month.

Burma’s Union Parliament appointed the 17-member commission during a legislative session last Friday. The deputy speakers of both the Upper House and the Lower House will lead the group.

The commission has been tasked with addressing the public’s misunderstanding of the parliament and to investigate whether the blogger’s statements violated existing law.

“First of all; we need to assess how much damage [has been done] to the credibility of the parliament and its representatives by the article and secondly – this is a more important task – to clear up the misunderstanding of the public who read the article,” said Upper House MP Hpone Myint Aung, from the National Democratic Force party, who was appointed to the commission.

“Thirdly, [we need] to expose and take action against the [blogger].”

However, Upper House MP and commission member Hla Swe, from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), interjected and said hunting down a blogger may be unrealistic.

“Personally, I think this would be a difficult task. Internet posting is like writing graffiti on a toilet’s wall – like in our younger days – no one would find the author,” said Hla Swe.

The USDP representative said specific evidence that could lead to the identification of the blogger should be followed up on.

In January, an article published by the blogger, who writes under the pseudonym Dr Seik Phwa, stated that the parliament was acting “above the law”.

The comments were made in reference to an ongoing row between the parliament and President Thein Sein concerning controversial moves made by the country’s legislators to control Burma’s constitutional tribunal.

After the parliament impeached six tribunal justices last year, the legislator went on to amend Burma’s tribunal laws, effectively providing MPs with the means to challenge the judicial body’s decisions. The amendments also allow parliamentarians to have a hand in the appointment of the tribunal chairman.

Legal analysts and the president criticised the move, which violates the existing constitution thus undermining the rule of law.

The president first requested parliamentarians to amend the constitution before passing a resolution that would violate the country’s legal framework.

President Thein Sein eventually rescinded his request and accepted the parliament’s amendments, but noted and they would “hamper the jurisdiction of the highest constitutional court”, according to a report in The New Light of Myanmar published in late January.

“They are currently pushing through amendments on the existing constitutional tribunal law, even though the president has described them as ‘unconstitutional’,” wrote human rights lawyer Aung Htoo, in an op-ed for DVB last month.

“Despite the fact that the president raised these constitutional issues, he did not stand against the resolution of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [Union Parliament],” wrote Aung Htoo.

The blogger has run articles in the past seemingly in support of Thein Sein’s policies. Dr Seik Phwa has not published an article since 20 January.

On his final post, the blogger addressed the controversy surrounding his critique of parliament but apologised for referring to the country’s MPs as ‘companions’ in an earlier post.

“I correct my earlier statement that they are individuals who represent our nation’s pride working for the legislative pillar, in accordance with the constitution and the People’s representatives elected by the people with their true will in the 2010 elections held democratically with free and fairness in line with the 2008 constitution that was accepted by the people,” wrote the blogger in his final blog post.

The 2008 constitution has been consistently critiqued for suppressing democratic forces within Burma and effectively allowing the military to maintain its grip on power in the country.

-Min Lwin contributed additional reporting.


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