With fund­ing and staff con­straints, Eth­nic Af­fairs Min­istry faces de­lays

The Myanmar Times - - News - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­times.com

DUE to a short­age of funds and ex­tremely lim­ited staffing, the Min­istry of Eth­nic Af­fairs will not be fully func­tional un­til the next fi­nan­cial year, ac­cord­ing to a deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral.

The min­istry was first es­tab­lished on March 30 by the Na­tional League for Democ­racy-led gov­ern­ment. By May 25 it al­ready had a name change, from its ini­tial “Min­istry of Eth­nic Races’ Af­fairs”, but still no bud­get.

“Prac­ti­cally speak­ing, just seven gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were trans­ferred from other min­istries and are han­dling the tasks of our min­istry,” min­istry deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral L Tu Main Goung said at an Au­gust 26 press con­fer­ence.

The min­istry has been al­lo­cated no par­tic­u­lar bud­get by par­lia­ment, but is be­ing al­lowed to use K40 mil­lion from the pres­i­dent’s fund.

“The min­istry’s head­quar­ters and two de­part­ments are go­ing to be es­tab­lished this year in Nay Pyi Taw,” L Tu Main Goung added. But branches for all states and re­gions will not be able to open un­til the 2017-18 fis­cal year, bud­get per­mit­ting.

“We will open re­gion and state level de­part­ments. Min­is­ters for eth­nic af­fairs have worked with­out hav­ing of­fices or a staff. Now we will or­gan­ise of­fices and staff mem­bers for them,” he said.

The min­istry cur­rently op­er­ates two branches, the De­part­ment of Eth­nic Lit­er­a­ture and Cul­ture and the De­part­ment of Pro­tect­ing Eth­nic Rights.

The min­istry was set up in part to pro­tect eth­nic rights, and to re­solve prob­lems be­tween eth­nic groups. But with such se­vere fi­nan­cial and per­son­nel con­straints, the abil­ity to meet such daunt­ing tasks re­mains lim­ited.

“Eth­nic peo­ple can file com­plaints at the of­fices if they face a vi­o­la­tion of eth­nic rights,” L Tu Main Goung said.

He said com­plaints will be han­dled through ne­go­ti­a­tions with re­spec­tive lo­cal govern­ments and the Union gov­ern­ment.

The lack of re­sources hasn’t com­pletely stymied the min­istry, how­ever. Start­ing in on its ob­jec­tive to pro­tect eth­nic lan­guages, lit­er­a­tures, cul­tures and tra­di­tions, the min­istry has drafted lan­guage poli­cies for Kachin, Kayin and Mon states as a part of its 100-day plan, the deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral said. It will con­tinue to draft poli­cies for all states and re­gions.

Next month, eth­nic af­fairs min­is­ters have been called to a meet­ing to assem­ble work­ing com­mit­tees, which ide­ally will ad­dress mat­ters of eth­nic lit­er­a­ture, cul­ture and tra­di­tions and a right to freely hold cel­e­bra­tions of eth­nic days.

The min­istry is also work­ing on re­cruit­ing 649 ad­di­tional staff from other min­istries at the same rate of pay as their pre­vi­ous posts.

– Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

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