Amend­ments to Sched­ule 2 of 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Upen­dranadh Chor­agudi

Awidely held per­spec­tive, and what can be called the con­ven­tional un­der­stand­ing is that the de­bate on fed­er­al­ism in Myan­mar is closely linked to the peace process and po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue. How­ever, there is an in­creas­ing re­al­iza­tion that ad­dress­ing fed­er­al­ism ought be a means to achieve peace and sta­bil­ity in the coun­try.

Cen­tral to the de­bate is also Sched­ule 2 of the 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion, which has in fact carved out some pow­ers and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to the fledg­ling State/Re­gional gov­ern­ments. Many how­ever feel this ar­range­ment is not suf­fi­cient or ad­e­quate. From this vin­tage, Myan­mar’s fu­ture in terms of achiev­ing na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, peace, and sta­bil­ity crit­i­cally hinges on the shap­ing of the State/Re­gional gov­ern­ments as foun­da­tional steps to­wards a fed­eral sys­tem.

A timely re­search pub­li­ca­tion ti­tled “Sched­ule Two of the 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion: Av­enues for Re­form and De­cen­tral­iza­tion and Steps To­wards A Fed­eral Sys­tem” from Kon­rad Ade­nauer Stiftung (KAS), which was re­leased at Yangon on the 3rd May 2018 iden­ti­fies the road map for de­cen­tral­iza­tion (and steps to­wards fed­er­al­ism) through amend­ments to the Sched­ule 2 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. This process is seen as one of the pos­si­bil­i­ties in the com­plex process of power shar­ing be­tween demo­cratic forces, the mil­i­tary and eth­nic na­tion­al­i­ties.

The au­thors of this brief pol­icy pa­per, re­searchers, Mael Ray­naud & Tin­zar Htun, ar­gues that while fed­er­al­ism (or es­tab­lish­ing a fed­eral struc­ture) is seen as part of the ne­go­ti­a­tions un­der 21st Cen­tury Pan­g­long peace process with NCA sig­na­to­ries, there are par­al­lel fed­eral gov­er­nance prac­tices un­der­way with the es­tab­lish­ment of state/re­gional par­lia­ments, min­istries and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that th­ese sub-na­tional level gov­ern­ments can han­dle. Th­ese two par­al­lel pro­cesses which have the same goals and have to be merged at some point in the fu­ture. It is in this con­text amend­ment of Sched­ule 2 of the 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion be­comes rel­e­vant, par­tic­u­larly as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her speech of Oct 2015 also refers to the amend­ment to Ta­bles (sched­ules 1,2, 3 and 5) as the agenda of the gov­ern­ment.

To a cer­tain de­gree, amend­ment to the sched­ule 2 is seen as a process of pro­mo­tion of de­cen­tral­iza­tion where in gov­ern­ment ap­pa­ra­tus reaches to the peo­ple.

The au­thors through their per­sua­sive anal­y­sis come to the con­clu­sion that there is an all round con­sen­sus on amend­ment to the Sched­ule 2 of the Con­sti­tu­tion so that more de­cen­tral­iza­tion can be prac­ticed. How­ever, some an­a­lysts point out that de­cen­tral­iza­tion is a sec­ond best al­ter­na­tive to fed­er­al­ism. For them Fed­er­al­ism, seen from a wider con­text, re­lates to is­sues of eth­nic iden­tity and shar­ing of power with­out di­lut­ing the na­tional sovereignty. This is pre­cisely the ap­proach that NCA and peace process is tak­ing. The au­thors point out the con­ver­gence of views; that of those who ad­vo­cate fed­er­al­ism in the peace process and those who ad­vo­cate amend­ments to the sched­ule 2 of the con­sti­tu­tion. How­ever, there is yet an­other, per­haps an ide­al­is­tic view, of work­ing to­wards a new con­sti­tu­tion and not set­tling with amend­ments to 2008 con­sti­tu­tion. Such a per­spec­tive may be miss­ing the ground re­al­ity that most po­lit­i­cal ap­pa­ra­tus is cur­rently grav­i­tat­ing to­wards a mod­er­a­tion of work­ing within the frame­work of 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion.

From the per­spec­tive of ush­er­ing in more de­cen­tral­ized gov­er­nance, it is im­por­tant to ad­here to the prin­ci­ple of sub­sidiar­ity. Clear de­mar­ca­tion of pow­ers and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with de­vo­lu­tion of func­tions, func­tionar­ies, and fi­nances are sine qua non for such an ar­range­ment. This re­quires change in at­ti­tudes, per­cep­tions, and work cul­ture of the cur­rent sys­tem which is per­ceived as top-down. Let­ting go of the ex­ist­ing pow­ers is al­ways a painful and dif­fi­cult task; yet it has to be ac­com­plished.

What are the ar­eas that need at­ten­tion in terms of amend­ment to Sched­ule 2? What would be the com­pli­men­tary changes re­quired? Au­thors of this pol­icy pa­per iden­tify a road map for such amend­ments and com­pli­men­tary steps.

The nec­es­sary changes in the for­ma­tion and com­po­si­tion of State/ Re­gional min­istries, re­forms in the gen­eral ad­min­is­tra­tion and pro­mo­tion of lo­cal gov­er­nance prac­tices, de­cen­tral­iza­tion of jus­tice sys­tem, di­vi­sion of pow­ers on var­i­ous eco­nomic sec­tors and rev­enue gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­i­ties at the state/re­gional level. All th­ese re­quire ap­pro­pri­ate mech­a­nisms in the form of amend­ments or en­act­ment of model laws at the union level or for­mu­la­tion of clear rules and reg­u­la­tions. At the same time, ca­pac­ity gaps at the state/re­gional level also need to be ad­dressed, as that would be­come an im­ped­i­ment in dis­charg­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at the sub-na­tional level. Th­ese are some of the is­sues that the re­search pa­per high­lights for the at­ten­tion of pol­icy makers.

In all, it’s a timely pol­icy pa­per that en­ables con­ver­sa­tions on the 2008 Con­sti­tu­tion and en­hances our un­der­stand­ing of con­sti­tu­tional, po­lit­i­cal and power dy­nam­ics of Myan­mar.

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