October 28, 2016

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The Parliamentary Oversight of the Police Force and CSOs Participation

DR HTOO MAUNG

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Like other democracy countries, we have three main functions in the parliament namely; legislation, oversight and representation. Among them, oversight function is crucial important to strengthen the parliament. First of all, I have four key points to share in this article. These are (1) the functions between the parliament and the police (2) the functions between the Hluttaw’s Committee and the police, (3) the legal framework for police force and (4) the role of civil society in the Parliament for which it is consist of the current situation and in the future prospect.
Now, the first key point I would like to share is about the legislative , budgetary and oversight function of the police force. In terms of the legislative function, the Ministry of Home Affairs(MOHA) makes the initial step for drafting for its part such as consulting with experts from Attorney General Office, seeking the approval of the Cabinet and forwarding to the Union Assembly. When we receive the Bill, it is distributed to either Pyithu Hluttaw or Amyotha Hluttaw upon deciding of the Speaker to be discussed and resolved. For example, if it is on the table of Pyithu Hluttaw, the Bill Committee prepares necessary arrangements such as inviting the members of concerned Ministry, the members of Public Management Committee, the members of Commission, the experts from the Attorney General Office including civil society. And they discuss altogether in the Committee. After discussion, the Bill Committee make a report and presenting the Hluttaw session. If it is accepted in the session, the Bill is forwarded to the other Hluttaw ( Amyotha Hluttaw) for further agreement. So also, the other Hluttaw studies and discusses the Bill as the same process of Pyithu Hluttaw and send it back to the Pyithu Hluttaw with some remarks like agreed, disagreed or agreed with amendments. Based on these remarks, the Pyithu Hluttaw makes review and send to the Union Assembly whether agreed or disagreed. It is, however, disagreed we need to make a vote in the Union Assembly. Afterwards, the Bill is sent to the President to be signed to become the law.
And let me moves on the budgetary functions between the parliament and the police. The initial step of the process of the budget for police is made by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the Ministry of National Planning and Finance. The Ministry send it to the Cabinet and the Cabinet continue to forward to the Union Assembly with all other Ministries’ budget collectively in attached with the approval of the Finance Commission. In this occasion, the Union Assembly assigns the Joint-Bill Committee to scrutinize the budget Bill including the police budget. Although the Joint-Bill Committee has solely responsible for scrutinizing, the Joint-Public Account Committee performs in practice throughout the process and makes a report in support of the National Planning, Union Budget and Taxation Scrutiny Coordination Committee. After finalizing the budget Bill in the parliament, the Union Assembly is just like always to send the Budget Bill to the President to approve to become the law.
Therefore, I would say that the parliament can oversight the legislative and budgetary functions of all governmental organizations including the police force according to the Constitution. Apart from these functions, the Parliament may make question and answer in the session and hearing in the committee relating to police affairs such as riots, over crow management etc. in terms of the oversight function. But this kind of case is very rare even in the Hluttaw’ Committees. In terms of the police oversight, the parliament has still weak under check and balance principle even in the communication functions between the Parliament and the police. We did not have any authority to communicate directly with the police force according to government’ instruction in the past. We did only have the right to correspond with DG to DG through Cabinet. This is one of the challenges for smooth function in the Parliament. But now is already changed. Generally speaking, the parliament has also still weak to oversight the police force. (I found out that the MPs are being oversight occasionally by the police force in the past.)
And the next point I would like to share you is legal framework for police. As far as I learned from the police force, these are the existing laws they practices at the present movement.
-The Yangon Police Act, 1872
-The Police Force Act, 1945.
-The Discipline for the Police Force Act.
Now the concerned Ministry has been preparing the new police force law by combination of the Police Force Act, 1945 and the Discipline for the Police Force Act in support of the Attorney General’ Office. The process of new law is underway. It does not have taken place yet in the parliament. Upon the discussion of the previous meetings in a couple of years ago on the rule of law and the parliamentary oversight of the police force held in Yangon supported by EU for three or four times chaired by Madam Aung San Suu Kyi, we observed that the following things should be included in the new police law.
– To be independent body
– To be professional, (meaning that distinct from military type and not coming from military personnel)
– To be accountability and responsibility
– To be well educated
– To be enough salary and allowance
And the parliament part, the specific committee should be established to oversight the police force effectively or should be placed a liaison office for smooth function as well in the future.
The last point I also would like to share you is about the role of civil society for the parliamentary oversight of the police force. The role of civil society is very crucial for every sector in the parliament. Now some civil societies played in important role by providing their valuable thoughts and ideas in some general debate in the parliament like the works of amending the Association Law, the National Education Law and drafting for the four Nationalism Laws. Apart from that, we do not have any support from them and we do not have any case of police affairs so far. Here, I would like to point out that the governmental organization should welcome the CSOs when they introduce the Bill. If the CSOs do not have any opportunity to participate in the drafting process at the government side, they can come and support the legislative process in the parliament in the last chance before approve. So, we are welcome any civil society to help us to have a good law for the country.

 

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