Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Burma’s Parliament convenes without NLD

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 13:20 Mizzima News

Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her opposition party skipped their debut in Burma’s parliament amid a dispute over a loyalty oath on Monday, as the European Union suspended long-running trade sanctions on the country in a reward for democratic reforms.

Burmese Upper House Speaker and Union Assembly Speaker Khin Aung Myint. Photo: Mizzima

The National League for Democracy (NLD) has objected to the oath that requires parliamentarians to swear to “safeguard” the country’s constitution, saying it was prepared to pledge to just “respect” the charter, which assures military dominance in politics.

NLD members were absent at the first parliamentary session since they were elected to office in landmark by-elections on April 1, but said they would attend future sessions once the issue of the oath had been resolved.

“Our leaders, especially chairman Aung San Suu Kyi, have requested the phrase be amended because this is important for the integrity of parliament and that of the country,” Myinthu, an NLD parliamentary representative, told Radio Free Asia.

“She didn't say we will not attend, but that we are trying to attend,” he said, adding that “it can’t be said” the NLD would not participate in parliament without a rewording of the oath.

Another NLD member of parliament, May Win Myint, said that NLD representatives are waiting for a reply from the authorities over their proposed amendment to the oath.

“We have submitted the letter and are waiting for the answer. The rest of the [NLD] representatives are all ready [to attend]. Only after we get the answer will the party make a decision,” she told RFA.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win told The Associated Press Monday that he believed the dispute would be solved within 10 days.

“We are cooperating with the government, so the problem will be overcome,” he said.

The NLD’s victory in the by-election, in which it won 43 of the 44 seats it contested, was considered a major step toward reconciliation after decades of military rule in Burma, adding credibility to reforms carried out over the past year under President Thein Sein’s administration.

Speaking on a state visit to Tokyo, President Thein Sein told reporters he was open to discussing changes to the oath.

“It is possible to make a revision if it serves the public's interest,” he said.

He added that Burma’s parliament would welcome Aung San Suu Kyi, but that she “needs to decide whether she wants to enter parliament or not,” Japanese media reported.

Burma’s constitution, pushed through by the former military junta in 2008, grants the military a set number of ministerial posts and one-quarter of the seats in both the upper and lower houses of parliament.

Aung San Suu Kyi has said she aims to amend the constitution to eventually remove the military from politics.

Banned after boycotting 2010 national elections, the NLD agreed to reregister to contest the by-elections only after the Election Commission changed wording in the political party registration law requiring candidates to "respect” instead of “safeguard” the constitution.

But those changes did not apply to the oath parliamentarians must take when they are sworn in.

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