Pyithu Hlut­taw ac­cepts pro­posal for anti-graft push

The Myanmar Times - - News - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­

LAW­MAK­ERS in the Pyithu Hlut­taw have en­dorsed a pro­posal urg­ing the Union gov­ern­ment to put for­ward measures to ef­fec­tively combat cor­rup­tion na­tion­wide.

The mo­tion was sub­mit­ted by Pyithu Hlut­taw law­maker U Than Win from North Okkalapa town­ship in Yangon Re­gion (NLD), with fel­low rul­ing party MP U Myo Zaw Oo from Lewe town­ship, Man­dalay Re­gion, sec­ond­ing it. Speaker U Win Myint (NLD; Tarmwe) de­cided to ac­cept the pro­posal on Au­gust 2 af­ter no MPs voiced ob­jec­tion to it.

“The prac­tice of tak­ing bribes and cor­rup­tion has been hap­pen­ing in all ar­eas – the ex­ec­u­tive, ju­di­ciary, ed­u­ca­tion, health and so­cial [sec­tors] – for decades,” said U Than Win.

He called graft a “plague” af­flict­ing the coun­try and its peo­ple, hin­der­ing trade and in­vest­ment, and lead­ing to the de­ple­tion of forests and other nat­u­ral resources.

As part of the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Law en­acted in 2013, an Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion was formed, but U Than Win this week ar­gued that the graft fight­ing body had been in­ef­fec­tive to date.

“De­spite a lot of com­plaints, just a few were acted on, [with the com­mis­sion] say­ing there was no ir­refutable ev­i­dence” in cases it dropped, he said of the com­mis­sion. The North Okkalapa law­maker said a cul­ture of re­luc­tance or out­right fear of com­ing for­ward with graft al­le­ga­tions made “ir­refutable ev­i­dence” a difficult thresh­old to meet in cor­rup­tion cases.

U Myo Zaw Oo said cor­rup­tion was bur­den­ing or­di­nary cit­i­zens. He added that graft in the coun­try typ­i­cally came in two forms – large mon­e­tary bribes or valu­able “gifts”, typ­i­cally in­volv­ing high­rank­ing gov­ern­ment per­son­nel or busi­ness­peo­ple, and smaller pay­ments to lower-level in­di­vid­u­als, eu­phemisti­cally known as “tea money” in Myan­mar.

The na­tion ranked an abysmal 147th out of 168 coun­tries in Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s 2015 Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tions In­dex.

A zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy to­ward cor­rup­tion was one of the Na­tional League for Democ­racy’s con­sis­tent themes on the cam­paign trail last year. Early in its ad­min­is­tra­tion, it made a point to high­light and pub­licly chas­ten an uniden­ti­fied me­dia com­pany – be­lieved to have been Sky Net – that at­tempted to give a K5 mil­lion “gift” to the as­sis­tant of a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial dur­ing April’s Thingyan fes­tiv­i­ties.

‘De­spite a lot of com­plaints, just a few were acted on, say­ing there was no ir­refutable ev­i­dence.’ U Than Win NLD law­maker

The in­ci­dent came just weeks af­ter the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice is­sued a new di­rec­tive cap­ping the mon­e­tary amounts that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are al­lowed to ac­cept as gifts.

Where U Than Win’s pro­posal goes from here will de­pend on the NLD ad­min­is­tra­tion and U Win Myint, who has had a ten­dency in the early days of his speak­er­ship to put such mo­tions on the record, opt­ing not to push for stronger leg­isla­tive ac­tion.

“The for­mer par­lia­ment was able to make checks and bal­ances on the gov­ern­ment. This par­lia­ment also has lively de­bates, but all the pro­pos­als end with be­ing put on the record,” said U Nay Myo, a res­i­dent of Py­in­mana town­ship who fol­lows the leg­is­la­ture’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

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