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Burma’s Constitutional Tribunal resigns

Burma’s nine-member Constitutional Tribunal voluntarily resigned en masse on Thursday, according to an order of the President's Office aired by state-run Radio and Television.

Members of the Constitutional Tribunal at a press conference on Aug. 20, 2012. Photo: Myanmar Journalists Association
Members of the Constitutional Tribunal at a press conference on Aug. 20, 2012. Photo: Myanmar Journalists Association
The Constitutional Tribunal's resignation came after a long standoff in Parliament, which passed an impeachment resolution by a majority vote against the tribunal for breaching provisions of the Constitution and failure to discharge its vested duties under the law, according to lawmakers.

The Lower House had formed a 15-member investigation team to take action against the Constitutional Tribunal on Aug. 28 after the Upper House a day earlier approved a proposal to impeach the tribunal.

State television announced that President Thein Sein had accepted the resignation of all nine tribunal members, effectively bowing to lawmakers demands, who were angered by its ruling stating that parliamentary committees and commissions did not have union-level standing under the Constitution.

Lawmakers said the ruling undermined the duties of both houses of Parliament.

Nearly three quarters of the Lower House lawmakers – 307 out of 440 – voted on Thursday to impeach the tribunal. The vote cut across all party lines.

Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann said that the tribunal judges had failed to discharge their duties effectively as he announced the result of the vote, said an article on the Radio Free Asia (RFA) website on Friday.

“We have found that the chair of the Constitutional Tribunal Thein Soe and the tribunal’s members … are not able to perform their duties well and have broken constitutional law, as the two houses of parliament have accused them of doing, and therefore I declare the decision that they should not continue with their duties,” he said, according to RFA.

The tribunal’s earlier ruling said the parliamentary panels set up by both the lower and upper houses are not union-level bodies, effectively taking away parliament’s right to scrutinize government entities which are deemed union-level and dampening legislative oversight of the executive branch.

According to information that Thein Sein’s office aired on state television, the tribunal’s nine members resigned on their own accord, reports said.

Observers said the months-long standoff exposed political rivalries within the government, pitting members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) against the president as they sought a greater role for Parliament in the country’s new political system.

In a speech to Parliament before the vote, USDP lawmaker Soe Yin said there was a need for "checks and balances" in Burma’s new political system.

“To attack the Parliament is to attack the people,” he said.

The impeachment vote was supported by members of all political parties, including the USDP and opposition parties.

Those opposed were mostly unelected military representatives, who are guaranteed a quarter of the seats in Parliament under Burma’s Constitution, drawn up in 2008 under the former military regime.

Thein Sein and the two house speakers must now choose three new judges each for the tribunal — made up mostly of academics or legal experts—and submit the list to lawmakers for approval.
Last Updated ( Friday, 07 September 2012 13:26 )  

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