MPs push to scrap law

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­times.com

Most mem­bers of the bill com­mitte sup­port with­draw­ing the con­tro­ver­sial Emer­gency Pro­vi­sions Act, but a USDP law­maker and mil­i­tary MP are push­ing for an up­date rather than an over­haul.

MIL­I­TARY MPs and elected law­mak­ers are set to spar over a con­tro­ver­sial law that has been used to jail po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents and car­ries a po­ten­tial death penalty for sabo­teurs and con­vey­ors of state se­crets.

The Pyithu Hlut­taw Bill Com­mit­tee wants to with­draw the 1950 Emer­gency Pro­vi­sions Act, ar­gu­ing that it per­pet­u­ates in­jus­tices like the ar­bi­trary ar­rest and de­ten­tion of civil­ians and politi­cians.

But two mem­bers of the com­mit­tee – a Union Sol­i­dar­ity and De­vel­op­ment Party rep­re­sen­ta­tive and a mil­i­tary MP – are push­ing in­stead for a down­sized ver­sion of law, or an amend­ment that cre­ates re­stric­tions on its ap­pli­ca­tion, rather than scrap­ping the leg­is­la­tion en­tirely.

U Tun Tun Hein (NLD; Nawng­cho), chair of the Pyithu Hlut­taw Bill Com­mit­tee, called the law un­nec­es­sary in an era of multi-party democ­racy, and said it was not ap­pro­pri­ate to al­low for the sup­pres­sion of ci­ti­zens’ rights.

“We are sub­mit­ting to with­draw this law to pro­tect our ci­ti­zens from in­jus­tice,” he told the Pyithu Hlut­taw yes­ter­day, adding that the law has mainly been em­ployed to re­tal­i­ate against ac­tivists.

The bill com­mit­tee sub­mit­ted the pro­posal to with­draw the act after dis­cus­sions with the Pyithu Hlut­taw Pub­lic Af­fairs Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee, the Pyi­daungsu Hlut­taw Com­mis­sion for the Assess­ment of Legal Af­fairs and Spe­cial Is­sues, the Union At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice and the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs.

U Tun Tun Hein said through suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments there were ex­am­ples of the act be­ing mis­used by those in power. He added that sev­eral other re­pres­sive laws al­ready in­clude sim­i­lar pro­vi­sions that lead to the cre­ation of po­lit­i­cal prison­ers, in­clud­ing the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act, pro­vi­sions of the Pub­lic Or­der (Preser­va­tion) Act, the Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tions Act and the 1975 State Pro­tec­tion Act. The 2008 con­sti­tu­tion also con­tains pro­vi­sions for call­ing a State of Emer­gency – and sus­pend­ing civil­ian rights – should the na­tion come un­der threat.

U Steven, sec­re­tary of the bill com­mit­tee, and lower house mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive Brigadier Gen­eral Maung Maung sub­mit­ted a coun­ter­pro­posal to amend the of­fend­ing pro­vi­sions of the emer­gency act, rather than with­draw­ing the law.

The emer­gency act should be with­drawn only fol­low­ing the is­suance of a new, im­proved it­er­a­tion of the law that can en­sure the rel­e­vant pro­tec­tion of state law and or­der, U Steven (USDP; Keng­tung) said.

Brig Gen Maung Maung sup­ported the mo­tion to up­date the act and make ad­just­ments that will pre­vent its mis­use, in­stead of abol­ish­ing the law.

The other 13 mem­bers of the 15-mem­ber bill com­mit­tee agreed to scrap the law, how­ever.

MPs who want to de­bate the Emer­gency Pro­vi­sions Act in the Pyithu Hlut­taw have un­til Au­gust 3 to regis­ter.

– Trans­la­tion by Emoon

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