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Burma inducted its speakers for the upper house of the country’s second parliament on Wednesday in the legislature’s first sitting. Mahn Win Khaing, who was elected into the role of upper house speaker, will also serve as the chair of Burma’s bicameral Union Parliament.
Moving towards the fulfilment of a pledge to construct an ethnically inclusive government, the National League for Democracy installed the Karen and an Arakanese politician into the roles of upper house speaker and deputy respectively.
The NLD won a landslide victory in the 2015 elections and now dominates both the upper and lower houses of Union Parliament, meaning the party will appoint Burma’s new government.
The upper house’s opening on Wednesday was attended by 223 of 224 MPs. Missing was Soe Thane, the incumbent minister of the President’s Office, who won his Karenni State seat in November. Soe Thane filed for leave from Wednesday’s proceedings citing a commitment to governmental duties.
The first Union Parliament’s speaker Thura Shwe Mann on 3 February formally handed over his duties to Mahn Win Khaing Than. The session was also attended by the NLD’s senior officials led by Tin Oo, lower house MPs, diplomats and political party representatives.
First on the order of business for new speaker Mahn Win Khaing, an NLD member, was to issue the call to all election winning MPs to work towards a federal union.
Upon taking up the speaker’s lectern, the Karen statesman also stressed the needs for internal peace, rule of law and national reconciliation.
“In order to transform our nation into a prosperous and developed federal democratic union, it is exceptionally crucial to first implement internal peace, rule of law and national reconciliation, and to do so, we need the right legislation,” said Mahn Win Khaing Than.
“Our upper house, being part of a legislative branch which is one of the three branches of government, should work to enact the legislation necessary for peace, rule of law and national reconciliation. Therefore I would like to urge our MPs to make an endeavour with the trust and love of one another in a spirit of brotherhood, without prejudice of race or religion; factionalism or favouritism.”
Aye Thar Aung, an election winning MP from the Arakan National Party was appointed as deputy-speaker of the upper house. The long-time ally of Aung San Suu Kyi too stressed the importance of an eventual federal union for Burma.
“Most importantly I will focus on implementing Arakan National Party policy and ethnic issues. I want to see an end to civil war, internal peace and the establishment of a federal union where all national ethnic groups can live harmoniously. These issues I’ve worked on consistently,” Aye Thar Aung said.