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February 29, 2020

Amyotha Hluttaw Public Complaints Committee illustrates duties to the people

By Shin Min
Photo: Kay Kay

“If any citizen feels that they have been wronged, then we urge them to file a report with concrete evidence, names, addresses and genuine national ID number.”

U Hla Myint (a) U Hla Myint Than,

Chairman of Amyotha Hluttaw Public Complaints Committee

The following are excerpts from separate interviews with the Chairman and the Secretary of the Amyotha Hluttaw Public Complaints Committee, who directly hear the voice of the people sent to the Hluttaw.

U Hla Myint, Chairman, Amyotha Hluttaw representative for Mon State constituency 11

“The committee has five duties. We have to check if the submitted complaints are grounded in facts, to inform about the genuine complaints, to submit questions and motions to the Hluttaw if the matter poses a risk to public wellbeing. And with the exception of cases that the court of law has not made a decision on, we have to discuss and advise the concerned groups involved.”
“Finally, we assist in the formation of an administration system that delivers fair and just protection on all citizens. And in that regard, we do so with adherence to existing laws and regulations while presenting advice.”
Right to evaluation
“With the permission of the Hluttaw Speaker, the committee has the right to question individuals from relevant organizations that can assist in our work. If we receive a complaint that affects public wellbeing then we can perform assessments on the ground. We then have to submit our findings to the Hluttaw Speaker.”
“To be a bit more precise, the committee is partially undertaking two of the three duties of the Hluttaw – representing the public and providing checks and balance on the executive and judicial pillars – in its own way.”

Nature of complaints
“The committee is formed with a Hluttaw representative from the Tatmadaw and 14 Hluttaw representatives from the states and regions. With the exception of the Chairman and Secretary, the remaining 13 members are divided into three groups that each handle complaints from one of three categories.”
“The first group handles complaints pertaining to judicial administration and courts of law, the second group handles matters relating to civil servants, and the third group is tasked with other general complaints.”
“Since the committee’s formation on 23 February, 2016, we have received complaints from a myriad of context. As of 30 November, 2019, we have received 4,661 letters of complaint referred to us by the Hluttaw Speaker and 5,121 sent directly to us, making it a total of 9,782 letters.”
“Land affairs are the most reported about, but we cannot handle matters relating to confiscation of farmlands and other lands. Those are to be sent to the committee headed by Vice President U Henry Van Thio.”
“Then there are the letters that do not meet set criteria or are incomprehensive and we have 3,807 of them so far. We have also kept senders of 770 letters informed and we have conducted an assessment on the ground for 59 letters, making 26 trips.”
“Our work took us to Kayin, Mon and Rakhine states and Yangon, Bago, Mandalay, Sagaing and Ayeyawady regions. We’ve relayed complaints to the Union Supreme Court, Union Attorney-General, Nay Pyi Taw Council, Anti-Corruption Commission, ministries and relevant state/regional Hluttaws. We are waiting for 29 letters back from them.”

U Hla Myint (a) U Hla Myint Than, Chairman of the Amyotha Hluttaw Public Complaints Committee speaks during the coordination meeting of the committee.
U Hla Myint (a) U Hla Myint Than, Chairman of the Amyotha Hluttaw Public Complaints Committee speaks during the coordination meeting of the committee.

Informing complainants
“Including the Ministry of Office of the President, there are 135 letters left to send back to our committee. The Ministry of Home Affairs has the most letters left to send back to us at 68. Second is the Ministry of the Office of the Union Government at 21 letters and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation at 16 letters. We need to be informed of how they have handled the matter before we can inform the complainants.”
“Likewise, the state and regional governments have 623 letters in total to respond to us. The Bago Region cabinet sits at the top of this list with 118 letters we are waiting on, followed by Mandalay Region with 109 letters and Sagaing Region with 91 letters. We will be reminding them all again.”

Processing five hearings
“So far, we have held five hearings concerning some of the complaint letters at Hall I-18 of the Amyotha Hluttaw building. Our committee has submitted reports twice in 2017, twice in 2018, and once in 2019 to the Amyotha Hluttaw.”
“International organizations have come to meet us as well. These include the visit of UK Upper House MP Lord Malcolm Bruce under the Scholar Wilson Asia Foundation Center, WFD programme, and Ms Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Myanmar.”
“They asked many questions but we were prepared for a question we were expecting them to ask. They inquired if we received any complaints relating to immigration. We had thoroughly checked all the letters we received and so replied there was none received. But those rumours persist.”
“However, it’s not just the Indian-borns or Muslims who are having trouble in Rakhine State in that regard. Even people born of ethnic descent face difficulties in acquiring an NRC card. Some of them may not know their grandparents’ names, or they may not remember all the facts they need, of which they may just have partial knowledge of their ancestry. We explained all that to them.”

Observing the present scene
“The UN Special Envoy also discussed amending the 1982 Citizenship law. We explained that the 1947 Constitution defines citizenship one way and so does the 1948 Union Citizenship Law. But the 1974 Constitution has two definitions of becoming a citizen and the 1982 law adds a third.”
“The Special Envoy seems to be more aware of Myanmar’s actual situation compared to her predecessors so we explained to her that western countries should avoid impeding our nation’s progress, especially at a time when we are working hard to implement a federal democratic republic. They should carefully study what is truly going on here first.”
“She understood where we were coming from but still said the 1982 law had to be amended. We told her that we need to amend the Constitution first.”
“An interesting point in our discussion with the UK Upper House member was that they only took 2 to 3 days to respond to a complaint letter while we took 2 to 3 months at the least. The difference lies in their use of proper e-mail systems, which would similarly speed up our work if everyone were to use them here,”

Amyotha Hluttaw Public Complaints Committee conducts its hearing in Bago on 1 April 2019.
Amyotha Hluttaw Public Complaints Committee conducts its hearing in Bago on 1 April 2019.

Acting with the law
“As of 30 June, 2019, we have taken action against 10 staff of the Ministry of Home Affairs, one from Nay Pyi Taw Council, 3 staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, 5 staff from the Ministry of Health and Sports, 2 staff from the Ministry of Education, 4 staff from the Bago Region government, one from the Shan State government, and a staff member and a judge from the Supreme Court.”
“In addition, we helped a staff member who was relieved of their duties receive compensation and their pension and we assisted a student removed from university due to a wrong assessment to be reaccepted.”
“We helped the resident of Waboechaung Village in Kyaikto Township, Mon State, receive compensation from the company that confiscated their lands and we assisted the Nay Pyi Taw Council in arresting five individuals accused of smuggling timber. They were given prison sentences and confiscated of five luxury cars and a 6-wheeler truck.”
“However, we have received 3 complaint letters that turned out to be untrue when we went to investigate. If any citizen feels that they have been wronged, then we urge them to file a report with concrete evidence, names, addresses and genuine national ID number. We also want the people to know that you do not need to send letters in nice envelopes or with stamps.” (To be continued) Translated by Pen Dali

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