By NYAN HLAING LYNN
NAY PYI TAW — Military lawmakers have against opposed extending the mandate of a parliamentary commission led by ex-general Thura U Shwe Mann, continuing a long-running feud with the former parliamentary speaker.
In a coordinated display of protest, members of the military stood to show their opposition when the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw was asked yesterday to extend the mandate of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission by 12 months.
The proposal still passed easily due to the National League for Democracy’s large majority, but military lawmakers said afterwards that the commission’s activities were “illegal”.
Lieutenant-Colonel Myo Htet Win said the commission had been drafting and amending laws, and submitting them to parliamentary bodies, so its authority was “overlapped” with that of the bill committees.
“At present the authority is split” between the commission and bill committees, he said. “That’s why we objected.”
Myo Htet Win told reporters that the objection was not because of the military’s rivalry with the NLD or dislike of Shwe Mann. “We are not competing to win,” he said. “We are doing our duty to point out something illegal.”
The proposal passed 295 to 179. As secret voting was used, it was unclear which lawmakers sided with the military’s 166-member bloc.
Shwe Mann is considered a traitor by many in the military because of his long-running feud with former president U Thein Sein and his close relationship with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
After the 2015 election, Aung San Suu Kyi rewarded him with the chairmanship of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission. The commission has broad responsibilities and the position has enabled him to become one of the state counsellor’s closest advisers.
But it has also antagonised the military, whose lawmakers opposed the commission’s creation back in March 2016. When its mandate first came up for renewal on February 27, 2017, Tatmadaw lawmakers also stood up to show their opposition.
In May 2017, 50 Tatmadaw lawmakers signed a letter to the Constitutional Tribunal asking it to check if the commission was in accordance with the constitution.
The tribunal decided that the commission was permitted under the constitution.
“We understand the decision of the tribunal and we obeyed it. But we object [to extending the mandate] because its authority is overlapped [with the bill committees],” Myo Htet Win said.