Nyan Win, a senior member of the National League for Democracy Party. (Photo: Phyo Thiha Cho)
By Phyo Thiha Cho
YANGON (Myanmar Now) - It has been more than 10 months since the National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers, many of them first-time MPs, entered Parliament and eight months since the party formed Myanmar’s first democratically elected government in decades.
Aung San Suu Kyi has long dominated the party and, in her role as State Councillor, is the de facto leader of the government. But little is known about decision-making processes in the legislature and executive, and how Suu Kyi and the NLD leadership cooperate with MPs and government members.
Recent events such as the unceremonious dismissal of Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Tun Win, and the unusual, early reshuffle of committees in both houses of Parliament have sent shockwaves through the party. Several Shan State MPs were also dismissed from the NLD.
The events drew media attention for the outsize role of ageing NLD party leadership, as temperamental senior party member Win Htein went about removing NLD members from their executive and legislative roles.
Myanmar Now asked NLD Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Nyan Win about the party’s procedures and recent events.
Question: When does the party expect to start amending the military-drafted 2008 Constitution?
A: We would have to take a certain period of time for that. We will try to reach a fully democratic system and there is no room for the unelected persons in parliament in a democratic system. But it is impossible to amend this charter without cooperation from the military.
Q: By-elections are coming up soon. How will the NLD select candidates for these polls?
A: We will consider potential candidates’ political experience, or expertise related to their academic background. And we will prioritise ethnic people, young persons and women with these qualifications.
Q: How are members of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) elected?
A: The members of CEC were elected at the party conference. The party first elects its chairperson. The chairperson then selects the CEC members. Their names are submitted to the central committee for approval. When there is no party conference, the CEC selects and appoints new members.
Q: Did the CEC recently force Deputy Agriculture Minister Tun Win to resign?
A: We did not do that, our party did not fire him. This deputy minster was dismissed by order of the President’s Office.
Q: But Minister Tun Win said he was forced by a CEC member to resign.
A: It might not have been concerned with CEC, I don’t know. No one discussed it with the CEC and ruling party intervention in the executive sector is inappropriate.
Q: Did the CEC dismiss Khin Moe Moe Lwin and three other Shan State MPs?
A: That was the decision of party’s disciplinary committee and the CEC approved this decision. We gave them the right to defend themselves in the dispute. But the three parliamentarians from Taunggyi Township were suspended by the CEC. They had some problems that breached party rules. We will find concrete evidence to take further action against them.
Q: There is growing criticism of the NLD senior leadership, as some people think it is restricting elected lawmakers. Does the party have a policy to control MPs?
A: We do not control them, but we can give them some sort of suggestions. This is a common practice among political parties in the world. The parliamentarians still conduct their legislative role, which is not concerned with the party. So we do not respond to such criticism.
Q: We recently asked a chief minister for an interview, but he declined saying the party ordered him to avoid the media. Did the CEC give out this order?
A: I never heard about this. Someone (in the party) might have asked him it, but the CEC did not issue this order. This could be just a misunderstanding. Any personal suggestion of a senior party member to a junior member might be misunderstood as an order. But these suggestions are neither orders nor demands - they should be regarded as cooperation. While we accept that the party cannot interfere with parliamentarians, we should cooperate (with MPs) on party policies.
Q: Where are the important party decisions made, at the headquarters in Yangon or at the party’s Napyitaw office?
A: Except for timely issues, the CEC at the headquarters makes all the important decisions. There was some opposition among CEC members in Yangon to the decisions of our colleagues in Naypyitaw. For example, we were not informed ahead of time about the replacement of a township-level party member. The Naypyitaw office said they did so as it was an urgent decision.
Q: Are any divisions developing among senior party members as a result of recent events?
A: I would never seek division. Frankly speaking, some media organisations like to see some divisions among senior party members, especially between U Win Htein and me. I think this will never happen. Maybe it is just the media’s expectation.