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Burma’s parliamentary house speaker Shwe Mann on Thursday weighed in on the issue of constitutional reform, sending a message to President Thein Sein urging him to facilitate the proposed sexpartite dialogue speedily in order to “create opportunities for successful nation-building in the future”.
Shwe Mann, who is frequently at odds with military hardliners but widely seen as a frontrunner in the race for the presidency, said that initiating such dialogue will “bring about positive outcomes for the country’s tranquillity, development, ethnic unity, national reconciliation, peace, and democratic transition.”
On 19 January, Thein Sein sent a message to the parliament, rejecting calls for him to facilitate dialogue for charter reform. The president stressed that such a move would be unconstitutional.
In Shwe Mann’s message to Thein Sein on Thursday, he suggested that dialogue must first be initiated among leading political actors in order to come up with a framework.
The initial idea for sexpartite dialogue came from opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. A meeting was scheduled to take place in November in Naypyidaw, but was abruptly cancelled. The meeting was intended to bring together Suu Kyi, President Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, house speakers Shwe Mann and Khin Aung Myint, and Arakanese politician Aye Maung as a representative of ethnic political parties.
Myo Yan Naung Thein, a well-known political columnist, expressed a concern that the whole debate surrounding sexpartite dialogue may be no more than a political farce created by the military-led government.
“Both parliamentary speakers and the president are from the ruling USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party],” he said. “I worry that it will be harmful to the country and the public if this turns out to be just a farce.”
Speaking to DVB on Thursday, he said, “On the other hand, I believe that the parliament’s response to the president is credible – agreeing to discuss the agenda of a meeting and a timeframe is a practical thing to do.”
An official motion calling the government to facilitate a sexpartite dialogue was put forward in the bicameral parliament in November by upper house MP Myint Tun. It was passed unanimously.