Home Af­fairs back­tracks

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

An an­nounce­ment that five de­part­ments would be brought un­der civil­ian con­trol was min­sun­der­stood, the min­istry has al­leged.

JUST one month af­ter the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs was heralded for open­ing up five de­part­ments to civil­ian con­trol, it has swiftly backped­dled on the of­fer, is­su­ing a “clar­i­fi­ca­tion let­ter”.

A per­ma­nent sec­re­tary at the min­istry said the de­ci­sion was not a re­ver­sal of pre­vi­ously an­nounced pol­icy, but rather a clar­i­fi­ca­tion of a “wrongly in­ter­preted” or­der.

A spokesper­son for the min­istry told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day that the five de­part­ments will stay firmly lodged un­der the um­brella of Home Af­fairs and, by ex­ten­sion, the mil­i­tary.

“We are just act­ing in line with the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions,” said U Maung Maung Myint, as­sis­tant per­ma­nent sec­re­tary at the home af­fairs min­istry.

In an of­fi­cial let­ter is­sued at the end of Au­gust to state and re­gion chief min­is­ters, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Kyaw Swe, min­is­ter for home af­fairs, had said the lo­cal gov­ern­ments could take over man­ag­ing the po­lice, the Bu­reau of Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tions, the Fire Ser­vice Depart­ment, the Prison Depart­ment and the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion Depart­ment (GAD).

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts and in­ter­na­tional ob­servers have long ar­gued that in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate gen­uine lo­cal democ­racy, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of such de­part­ments needs to be de­cen­tralised and brought un­der civil­ian man­age­ment.

But hous­ing GAD within the mil­i­tary-led Min­istry of Home Af­fairs with a man­date to over­see lo­cal, town­shiplevel ad­min­is­tra­tion served as an im­por­tant pil­lar of the junta’s “dis­ci­pline­flour­ish­ing democ­racy”.

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 the De­fence Ser­vices.

U Maung Maung Myint de­fended the min­istry’s newly re­leased let­ter as a nec­es­sary clar­i­fi­ca­tion of the first mis­sive sent to the chief min­is­ters in Au­gust.

“I think the first let­ter was at that time mis­in­ter­preted to mean that the ad­min­is­tra­tion of those de­part­ments was be­ing trans­ferred to the chief min­is­ters. That is not cor­rect,” he said.

He added that the min­istry will con­tinue over­see­ing all of its de­part­ments in the states and re­gions, but is invit­ing chief min­is­ters to bet­ter co­op­er­ate and co­or­di­nate, as per the 2008 mil­i­tary-drafted con­sti­tu­tion.

How­ever, the con­sti­tu­tion seems to con­tra­dict the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary’s ex­pla­na­tion as to who is tasked with man­ag­ing the de­part­ments.

Pro­vi­sion 260 says, “The head of the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion Depart­ment of the re­gion or state is the ex­of­fi­cio sec­re­tary of the re­gion or state gov­ern­ment con­cerned. More­over, the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion Depart­ment of the re­gion or state is housed within the of­fice of the re­gion or state gov­ern­ment con­cerned.”

Sec­tion 256 of the 2008 char­ter says that the state and re­gional gov­ern­ments must man­age, guide, su­per­vise and in­spect the de­part­ments of the min­istries so that they follow the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions and ex­ist­ing laws.

Up­per house MP U Htay Oo (NLD; Yan­gon 2) said there was no doubt­ing that Home Af­fairs had changed its mind since last month. He at­trib­uted the re­ver­sal to ret­ri­bu­tion for the mil­i­tary’s re­cent de­feats in par­lia­ment.

The rul­ing Na­tional League for Democ­racy and mil­i­tary law­mak­ers have re­cently sparred over sev­eral pieces of leg­is­la­tion that deal with lo­cal gov­er­nance. But the NLD-dom­i­nated par­lia­ment has over­whelmed the vote, in­clud­ing in favour of amend­ing the Ward and Vil­lage Tract Ad­min­is­tra­tion Law – es­pe­cially on the point of re­mov­ing an overnight guest reg­is­tra­tion re­quire­ment – and scrap­ping the Emer­gency Pro­vi­sions Act.

“We sup­ported abol­ish­ing [the guest reg­is­tra­tion stip­u­la­tion], whereas the mil­i­tary op­posed abol­ish­ing it. I think these events [amend­ing the laws and back­track­ing on the depart­ment man­age­ment] are con­nected,” said U Htay Oo. “That’s why they are draw­ing back their pre­vi­ous de­ci­sion.”

Mil­i­tary MPs had also op­posed the NLD on a per­sonal free­dom and se­cu­rity bill, which out­laws sur­veil­lance that could im­pact civil­ians’ per­sonal free­doms and dig­nity, and which last week passed the lower house. Mil­i­tary MPs had ar­gued that the se­cu­rity of the state should be given pri­or­ity over per­sonal free­doms.

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