Home af­fairs remaps lo­cal gov­er­nance

The mil­i­tary-con­trolled min­istry has agreed to at least par­tially re­lin­quish con­trol of the po­lice, spe­cial branch, the Prison De­part­ment and the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­part­ment.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

IN a dra­matic re­draft­ing of lo­cal gov­er­nance, the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs has agreed to at least par­tially re­lin­quish con­trol of the po­lice, the Bureau of Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tions, the Fire Ser­vice De­part­ment, the Prison De­part­ment and the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­part­ment (GAD).

The ex­act de­lin­eation of the pow­er­shar­ing ar­range­ment with civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion re­mains vague, how­ever.

In an of­fi­cial let­ter is­sued last week to state and re­gion chief min­is­ters, Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Kyaw Swe said the lo­cal gov­ern­ments could take con­trol of the man­age­ment of the five de­part­ments.

How­ever, Daw Lei Lei Maw, chief min­is­ter of Tanintharyi Re­gion, said the let­ter does not in­clude spe­cific de­tails on the gov­er­nance strat­egy, but only al­ludes to bet­ter co­or­di­na­tion and co­op­er­a­tion of the key de­part­ments with the lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

“When we met with Ko Kyaw Swe in a meet­ing for the emer­gency man­age­ment com­mit­tee on Au­gust 3, he asked us to work to­ward a close work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the de­part­ments,” she said.

“He asked us to take ac­tion against those of­fi­cials who com­mit wrong­do­ing, and to re­ward those who per­form above and be­yond their du­ties,” she said.

She added that her un­der­stand­ing was that the de­part­ments would re­main un­der the um­brella of the min­istry, and by ex­ten­sion, the mil­i­tary.

The min­is­ter for home af­fairs, along with the min­is­ters for de­fence and bor­der af­fairs, is ap­pointed by the com­man­der-in-chief of De­fence Ser­vices. Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts and in­ter­na­tional ob­servers of­ten re­fer to the con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed ap­point­ments as an “un­demo­cratic” hold-out against fully civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The five de­part­ments, with their top-to-bot­tom hi­er­ar­chi­cal struc­tures, have long been sub­ject to crit­i­cisms for an in­grained sys­tem of bribery and cor­rup­tion. Most of the se­nior man­age­ment of­fi­cials at the de­part­ments were cherry-picked from De­fence Ser­vices.

Un­der the junta, the Po­lice Force and the Prison De­part­ment earned the rep­u­ta­tion and im­age of be­ing “thugs” un­der the thumb of the mil­i­tary regime and de­ployed to sup­press po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents.

U Maung Maung Myint, an as­sis­tant sec­re­tary at the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs, said the in­volve­ment of lo­cal gov­ern­ment in the five de­part­ments was “not new”. He al­leged that the 2008 con­sti­tu­tion as­signs civil­ian lead­er­ship to the Home Af­fairs de­part­ments.

Quot­ing sec­tion 260 of the mil­i­tary drafted char­ter, he said the civil­ian chief min­is­ters in states and re­gions freely man­age the five de­part­ments.

“The Head of the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­part­ment of the Re­gion or State is the ex-of­fi­cio Sec­re­tary of the Re­gion or State Gov­ern­ment con­cerned. More­over, the GAD of the Re­gion or State is the Of­fice of the Re­gion or State Gov­ern­ment con­cerned,” the con­sti­tu­tion sec­tion reads.

While the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion does grant states and re­gions some con­trol, it does not de­scribe the ex­tent to which civil­ian chief min­is­ters could or­der and man­age the de­part­ments.

Shar­ing from her own per­spec­tives, Daw Lei Lei Maw de­scribed the Home Af­fairs Min­istry’s re­cent state­ment as a “ne­ces­sity” in or­der to pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ment and the mil­i­tary-con­trolled ad­min­is­tra­tive or­gans.

The con­sti­tu­tion should later be changed to guar­an­tee the civil­ian con­trol of the de­part­ments, she said.

Ma Thin­zar Shun Lei Yi, an ad­vo­cacy co­or­di­na­tor at the Ac­tion Com­mit­tee for Democ­racy De­vel­op­ment which has been push­ing for the re­form of the Ward and Vil­lage Tract Ad­min­is­tra­tion Law, said there should be bolder changes to se­cure civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion largely falls to the ubiq­ui­tous Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion De­part­ment, which re­mains housed un­der the mil­i­tary-con­trolled Home Af­fairs Min­istry.

“Since the de­part­ment heads are former mil­i­tary of­fi­cers, they tend to obey the in­struc­tions and or­ders is­sued by the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs, rather than the [state and re­gion] civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion. We will have to wait and see whether this han­dover of the man­age­ment of the five de­part­ments is a good thing,” she said.

Dur­ing her visit at the end of June, UN spe­cial rap­por­teur on hu­man rights for Myan­mar Yanghee Lee said she “ob­served the very real ten­sion be­tween a new civil­ian lead­er­ship and a bu­reau­cracy in­her­ited from pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary regimes which of­ten re­sulted in a du­al­ity in pol­icy and ap­proach”.

Ma Thin­zar Shun Lei Yi said that the re­cent uptick in former mil­i­tary per­son­nel ap­pointed to gov­ern­ment de­part­ments makes it hard to har­monise be­tween civil­ian and mil­i­tary ad­min­is­tra­tions.

She said through her vis­its to the state and re­gional gov­ern­ments for work on the Ward and Vil­lage Tract Ad­min­is­tra­tion Law, she learned that de­part­ments in only few states and re­gions take up their man­date to be in­volved in the lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“This has cre­ated some con­flict among the civil­ian and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to U Ye Naing, a di­rec­tor at the GAD’s head­quar­ters in Nay Pyi Taw, the bud­gets for the state and re­gion branches of the five de­part­ments are culled from the state and re­gion gov­ern­ment cof­fers.

The Min­istry of Home Af­fairs’ bud­get sup­ports only the cost for the op­er­a­tions of the GAD’s head­quar­ters in Nay Pyi Taw, cov­er­ing is­sues such as “land man­age­ment, the af­fairs of as­so­ci­a­tions such as their reg­is­tra­tion and the laws, the han­dling liquors and al­co­hols, taxes”. He said the head­quar­ters is not in­volved in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the state and re­gion branches.

U Myat Thu, chair of the Yan­gon School of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence, praised the ex­plicit shift of the five de­part­ments to more civil­ian con­trol.

“It is im­por­tant to re­call that even the Tat­madaw should one day be brought un­der civil­ian con­trol,” he said.

He added that civil­ian con­trol of lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion does not au­to­mat­i­cally equate with “good gov­er­nance”, but would have to be an evolv­ing process.

“Since they have to work un­der a civil­ian elected of­fi­cial who has to take re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity in gov­ern­ing, they will have to be­come more re­spon­si­ble and ac­count­able than be­fore,” U Myat Thu said.

He added that the re­cent over­hauls of the top-level cab­i­net po­si­tions will not lead to any dra­matic changes since most of the bu­reau­crats op­er­at­ing the gov­ern­ment de­part­ments re­main the same.

Without restruc­tur­ing more than the su­per­fi­cial, top-level ap­point­ments, changes will not hap­pen overnight, he said.

‘It is im­por­tant to re­call that even the Tat­madaw should one day be brought un­der civil­ian con­trol.’ U Myat Thu Yan­gon School of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

Po­lice stand guard nead a protest in Yan­gon in Jan­uary.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.