Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dr. Tu Ja says Burma constitution must be amended but not on Thein Sein's terms

Dr. Manam Tu Ja, leader of the Kachin State Democracy Party (KSDP) tells the Kachin News Group (KNG) that Burma’s military-backed constitution must be amended in line with the people’s will and in a democratic manner which is different from what has been proposed by the government.

Dr. Tu Ja, a prominent figure in the Kachin community and an ex-chairman # 2 of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), led the KIO delegation that participated in the military run National Convention, a controversial process that resulted in the drafting of the 2008 military constitution currently in effect. At the end of the drafting process Tu Ja was chosen as the representative from the convention to deliver the final draft to the convention's chairman, Thein Sein, who at the time was the military regime's Prime Minister.

Tu Ja tells KNG that he strongly disagrees with President Thien Sein's proposal to alter the constitution using a restrictive legal framework.

During a literary festival in Mandalay last month Thein Sein claimed that the constitution must only be changed in a way that doesn't bring about unrest. "The amendment of the constitution and the holding of free and fair elections are domestic issues, which will be carried out within a legal framework, and without tarnishing national sovereignty. Unrest won’t do any good to the country as only the country and the people will suffer”, he said.

The president wants any and all constitutional amendments to be done in accordance with the protocol laid out in the 2008 constitution, which according to Dr Tu Ja is a ‘dead policy’ that will result in no change because Article No. 436 of the constitution makes altering, what is one of the most pro-military constitutions in the world, extremely difficult.

Article 436 mandates that all amendments to the Constitution require the support of more than 75 percent of parliamentarians. The fact that 25 percent of seats in Parliament are reserved for appointed members of the military essentially gives the army a veto over any proposed change to the constitution.

Over the last two months National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aun San Suu Kyi has held a number of rallies across the country calling for the constitution to be changed. The NLD's main concern with the constitution, which was adopted following a widely discredited 2008 national referendum, relates to a clause that bars Suu Kyi from becoming head of state because she was married to a foreigner and has offspring with foreign citizenship. Suu Kyi has objected to the government's claim that changing the constitution could create instability in the country.

Will Tu Ja be victorious in 2015?
A long time senior figure in the KIO, Dr. Tu Ja resigned from the group in 2009 in order to form the Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP) which was supposed to contest the 2010 national elections. Ultimately Dr. Tu Ja was barred from registering for the 2010 election as either a candidate for the KSPP or as an independent.

He again tried to run during a by election held in April 2012 however the voting for the three seats in Kachin state was cancelled by the government due to “security reasons”. Last year he formed the KSDP with many of the same supporters from the now defunct KSPP. Dr. Tu Ja trained as a dentist before he joined the KIO in the late 1960's.


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