Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others from her party who were elected legislators will not make their debut in the Burmese Parliament on Monday following the failure to resolve a dispute with the authorities over an oath they should take, party officials said.
“So we are not going to Naypyidaw [the capital]. We have explained that we are not able to attend tomorrow’s parliamentary session as planned before,” Ohn Kyaing, a newly elected MP from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), told Radio Free Asia on Sunday.
It is believed to be the first major dispute between the reformist administration of President Thein Sein and the newly elected opposition.
But negotiations are continuing and the issue could be resolved soon, party leaders said.
“Our lawyers led by party spokesman U [honorific] Nyan Win are still working on it. If negotiations are successful in resolving it, we will attend the parliament as soon as possible,” said Ohn Kyaing, the MP for Mandalay, the second largest city after Rangoon.
A clause in the oath for incoming parliamentarians says lawmakers have to “safeguard” the constitution, which NLD officials say contradicts the policy of the party, which grabbed 43 of the 44 seats it contested in April 1 by-elections.
Top opposition party
The NLD, the biggest opposition party in the military-dominated legislature, had proposed that the oath be amended to read that parliamentarians will “respect” the constitution.
The oath is based on the country’s constitution, which Aung San Suu Kyi aims to amend to eventually remove the military from politics.
The constitution was pushed through by the former military junta in 2008. It grants the armed forces 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 told RFA last week that the NLD would attend parliament after the oath had been changed.
“We won't say we are not attending parliament. We will attend after the oath [is amended],” she said.
“Regarding changing the phrase, it is in accordance with the constitution … I hope there will not be a problem with this.”
NLD Party Secretary Nyan Win had said that officials from Burma’s Election Tribunal informed him of their views on the proposed changes in a cordial manner on Thursday and that the NLD was working on a new proposal for rewording the oath based on that discussion.
“Mainly, they explained to us about their legal point of view regarding that version of the oath, in a very friendly manner, and we thank them for that,” he said.
“However, we have different views on some of the facts they explained to us.”
Nyan Win noted that Aung San Suu Kyi had specifically discussed the oath of office with President Thein Sein during their second official meeting two weeks ago, and he said the two had reached an “understanding” on the issue, without elaborating.
“I don't know the details about the discussion. What I know is that it has been discussed and there was an understanding on the issue – that's all,” he said.
Reported by RFA's Burmese service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.
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