Security council meeting urged
With the government and the country facing several major setbacks in recent months, more than a dozen political parties have called for a meeting of the powerful National Defence and Security Council.
THIRTEEN registered political parties have called for a meeting of the powerful National Defence and Security Council to address a “general crisis” facing the country on multiple fronts.
Led by the formerly ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, a statement released by the parties said now is the right time to bring the council’s membership together for the sake of the country’s security.
Territorial sovereignty is at stake in conflict-wracked Rakhine State, the statement reads, adding that renewed fighting in the country’s northeast is negatively impacting the lives and property of “innocent civilians”.
“It is high time that the government declare the root cause of these problems is due to terrorist organisations that have a connection with international [actors] and acts of terrorism,” reads the statement.
The 13 political parties claim that a “series of explosions in Yangon, increasing crime rates nationwide, gradually rising economic hardships and fading hope on the peace process that is under way” constitute a “general crisis” facing the country.
Without naming a single organisation or network, the joint statement said groups abroad and domestically are deploying systematic strategies to weaken the defence capabilities of the country.
“The current handling of the government is instead leading to deeper crisis,” said the statement.
“To solve the general crisis currently faced in security and economic terms, to effectively mitigate the danger of terrorist acts of domestic [actors] and from abroad, and to make the right decisions, it is now time to call for a meeting of the National Defence and Security Council,” the parties said.
The 11-member NDSC is composed of the president, the two vice presidents, the two parliamentary Speakers, the Tatmadaw commander-inchief and his deputy, and the ministers of defence, border affairs, home affairs and foreign affairs.
Barred from the presidency, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is widely believed to have also taken the foreign affairs minister post to ensure herself a seat on the NDSC.
Her ruling National League for Democracy was not among the 13 parties to sign on to the joint statement.
U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, suggested that the country’s security situation was not as dire as portrayed by the 13 political parties, adding that the government was handling the challenges to the best of its ability.
“The phrase ‘general crisis’ is a bit exaggerated. The situation here and in Rakhine State is not uncontrollable, but requires careful handling. Concerning the economy and the peace process, the situation is not as bad as described in the statement,” he said.
Asked whether a single meeting of the NDSC had been convened since the civilian-led National League for Democracy government took power in April, he said one had not.
In the wake of multiple attacks on Border Guard Police outposts on October 9 in northern Rakhine State, a meeting was held on October 14 between senior figures of the ruling party and the Tatmadaw, including the president. The gathering was described by the President’s Office as a “meeting related to national defence and security”.
Asked why the 13 political parties had not as yet suggested specifics for how to address the challenges currently facing the government, New National Democracy Party chair U Thein Nyunt said it was not the responsibility of political parties, but rather fell to the government.
“If they are not calling an emergency meeting of the NDSC, then when will they call it?” he asked.
U Thein Nyunt said the recent volatility along the country’s borders and a poorly functioning economy were bringing the greatest hardship to those at the grass-roots level.
“If that continues, then there will be riots and an uprising in the country. The NDSC should meet now and discuss how to solve those problems,” he said.
The 2008 constitution lays out the NDSC’s responsibilities in its chapter “Provisions on State of Emergency”. Among other duties, the militarydominated NDSC plays a coordinating and consultative role in the event that a state of emergency is declared.
In the most extreme of circumstances, Article 417 states, “If there arises or if there is sufficient reason for a state of emergency to arise that may disintegrate the Union or disintegrate national solidarity or that may cause the loss of sovereignty, due to acts or attempts to take over the sovereignty of the Union by insurgency, violence and wrongful forcible means, the president may, after coordinating with the National Defence and Security Council, promulgate an ordinance and declare a state of emergency.”
In such an event, legislative, judicial and executive authority is handed over to the commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
A Tatmadaw soldier secures the ground while a military helicopter carrying troops takes off from Muse, Shan State, on November 25.