Pyithu Hluttaw accepts proposal for anti-graft push
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.