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Will the Burmese Parliament impeach the Constitutional Tribunal?

Rangoon (Mizzima) – The members of Burma’s Constitutional Tribunal say they will not resign in spite of a movement in the Lower House of Parliament that seeks their voluntary resignations.

Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann  Photo: MizzimaLower House Speaker Shwe Mann last week sent a letter to President Thein Sein asking that the nine tribunal members, including the tribunal’s chairman, quit by Aug. 21.

At a press conference in Naypyitaw on Monday, tribunal chairman Thein Soe said that he and the members did not commit any wrongs, and they will continue to carry out their duties under the Constitution.

The dispute began the third week of March, when the tribunal issued an opinion saying that committees and commissions formed by the Parliament are not “union-level” bodies. The ruling was met with disbelief by many members of Parliament.

Speaker Shwe Mann had urged the president to help resolve the issue, but the president has said the tribunal members were carrying out their constitutional duties.

The tribunal is made up of nine judges, most of whom are academics or legal experts, according to an article
this week on the Radio Free Asia website. Three of the judges were selected by Thein Sein, three by Shwe Mann, and three by the speaker of the Upper House, Khin Aung Myint.

Burma’s Upper House consists of 224 members of which 168 are directly elected and 56 appointed by the military.

The tribunal was formed to interpret the provisions of Burma’s Constitution, to determine whether the laws put forth by the Parliament are constitutional, and to arbitrate constitutional disputes between the lower and upper houses on the rights and functions of the State.

Earlier, 301 out of 440 Lower House MPs signed a petition to impeach the tribunal, but the speaker said he would like to “seek the best possible way, except the impeachment, to settle the issue,” according to a statement on the Lower House website.

It is believe that most or all of the military appointees in the Lower House did not sign the petition calling for the resignations. MPs from the ruling party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, are believed to have signed the petition.

Ohn Kyaing, a Lower House MP who signed the petition, said MPs from the USDP and the NLD “have the same attitude” about the tribunal’s ruling.

On March 28, the tribunal passed a resolution saying committees, commissions and bodies formed by the houses of Parliament are not union-level organizations under the Constitution.

President Thein Sein told MPs that the ruling made by the Constitutional Tribunal was decided freely and complied with the functions and duties conferred on it by the Constitution, and the ruling is final.

Thein Sein said that demanding the resignation of the nine members of the tribunal is not appropriate, and if MPs object to the Constitutional Tribunal, they should try to amend the Constitution.  

To amend the Constitution, the approval of more than 75 per cent of the Union Assembly [a joint session of both houses] is required, followed by a nationwide referendum on the question.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 August 2012 16:27 )  

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