Myanmar's Rakhine state parliament impeached the state’s municipal affairs minister on Tuesday for failing to perform his duties properly, making him the first regional government minister forced to step down under the current civilian-led central government.
Min Aung, who was appointed by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party to serve as regional municipal affairs minister in 2015, was removed from his position by a vote of 37 for and eight against with the majority of representatives believing he was not suitable to serve out his term as a state minister.
Seventeen state parliament lawmakers from the NLD, Arakan National Party (ANP), and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) filed a complaint against Min Aung in November 2017.
They accused him of failing to consult state officials on the state budget for fiscal year 2018-19 and of a lack of transparency with planning tenders for construction projects to build three-story markets in the towns of Gwa, Tungup, and Kyauktaw without seeking parliamentary approval.
Lawmakers also accused Min Aung of providing careless responses to questions, especially about an incident in which a number of local people died prior to deadly attacks by a Muslim militant group on police outposts in northern Rakhine state on Aug. 25, 2017.
On Dec. 4, the state parliament formed a five-member committee that included a representative from each political party that holds seats in the body to investigate the complaint.
An official announcement issued by the Rakhine state parliament at the time said that lawmakers demanded that Min Aung be impeached, claiming his failure to properly carry out his duties had harmed the nation and the public interest, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
A minister has to submit a proposal to implement a project, according to parliamentary legal procedures under Myanmar's constitution, said investigation committee member Naing Kyaw Aye.
“Minister Min Aung didn’t submit the project proposal to the state parliament for permission to proceed with the plan for the markets, which are under the [state] Municipal Affairs Ministry, and he even called for tenders. That’s why he was impeached.”
“Parliament has the right to question market staff, but the state government issued an order for staff not to provide testimony at parliament regarding this case,” he said.
'Submit what it must'
Min Aung, who also serves as Rakhine state’s spokesman and represents Toungup township in parliament, objected to the information collected by the investigation team, saying it was unlawful.
But San Kyaw Hla, speaker of Rakhine’s lower house of parliament and a member of the ANP, said the committee had completed its duties lawfully.
The state’s Chief Minister Nyi Pu will submit the results of the vote to Myanmar President Htin Kyaw, who must approve the measure.
“We urge the state parliament to submit to the president what it must,” Kyaw Hla said
“If the state parliament can’t control him [Min Aung] when he is not dutiful and has violated the constitution, our state parliament will become useless,” he said. “It will become a parliament that can’t control the government.”
“We have chosen to impeach him because we couldn’t control him through discussions or by asking him questions to get answers,” he said.
Min Aung told reporters that he will continue to work as an NLD member to make the party stronger, if the president approves his resignation.
Twenty-one of the seats in the Rakhine state parliament are held by the ANP, nine by the NLD, three by the USDP, one by an independent, and 12 by the military.
The ANP, the dominant political party in Rakhine state which represents the interests of the ethnic and largely Buddhist Rakhine people, clashed with the ruling NLD previously in March 2016 when ANP lawmakers protested the appointment of NLD-member Nyi Pyu as chief minister by walking out of parliament.
Reported by Min Thein Aung and Tin Aung Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.