Burma MPs Nominate Constitutional Court Chief

burma-parliament-oct2012.jpg The lower house of Burma's parliament meets in Naypyidaw on Oct. 18, 2012.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. EST on 2012-02-25

The speaker of the lower house of Burma’s parliament has nominated a former Supreme Court director general to head the country’s constitutional tribunal, whose members all quit last year following a row between the government and the legislature.

The tribunal, which rules whether legislation is in line with the country’s 2008 constitution, has wrought divisions between parliament and President Thein Sein’s administration as the institutions move to define their roles amid reforms following decades of military rule.

The lower house of Burma’s parliament, which moved in the middle of last year to impeach the previous panel, named its three nominees to the nine-member tribunal earlier this month.

On Wednesday, Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann threw his weight behind one of the three, former director general of the Supreme Court Mya Thein, to head the tribunal.

“Because the Constitutional Court is a judiciary body, I think this position should be given to a person experienced with the judiciary. Therefore, I believe that among the three nominees, U Mya Thein who served as a director-general of the Supreme Court should be appointed,” he said during the parliamentary session.

The lower house’s two other nominees to the panel are high court lawyers Mya Thein—who has the same name as the former Supreme Court director general—and Myint Lwin.

Three more slots on the tribunal are reserved for nominees from the upper house, and another three members are to be selected by Thein Sein.

The new members will fill the seats vacated when all nine judges resigned in September after both houses of parliament voted to impeach the previous panel appointed by the president.

The impeachment moves were initiated by lawmakers angry over a decision by the tribunal that limited parliamentary panels’ power to summon ministers for questioning.

The tribunal had ruled in March last year that parliamentary committees, commissions, and organizations are not union-level bodies, effectively taking away parliament’s right to scrutinize government entities which are deemed union-level and dampening legislative oversight over the executive branch.

The row over the tribunal has highlighted a power struggle between parliamentarians headed by Shwe Mann—formerly a general and third-in-command under the previous military junta and now a major campaigner for reforms—and the current nominally civilian administration under Thein Sein, who was less senior than Shwe Mann in the old regime and is now the key architect of the reform agenda.

According to the Myanmar Times, lawmakers said the lower house’s three nominees to the tribunal, including former Supreme Court head Mya Thein, had shown in previous dealings with the lower house that they would not bow to pressure from influential figures.

Reported by Win Naung Toe for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

An earlier version of this story stated that the Mya Thein nominated for the constitutional court chief was formerly the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.


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