THURSDAY, 09 FEBRUARY 2012
In a startling admission of the Burmese government’s past failings –including systemic corruption – the speaker of the Lower House has called on Parliament members to pass laws that modernize the government and serve the people.
Sounding like a democratic opposition reformist, former general Shwe Mann presented a blistering critique of the failures of the Burmese government on Tuesday. He told lawmakers not to dwell on the past, but to bring about reforms and “modern” concepts by listening to the people’s voices at all levels.
The speech could be seen as one of the most significant signs yet that the reforms underway by the newly elected government are real and reordering government policies and actions is a work in progress. It was also a notice of responsibility sent to lawmakers that far-reaching reforms must come through policies and laws passed in Parliament.
Shwe Mann said government employees across the country in almost all departments routinely take bribes and “grease money” and charge for normal services and documents “because of low salaries.” Salaries and bonuses for government employees are too low and encourage corruption, he said.
He told lawmakers to put forward a bill to increase the salaries of government workers. He went on to cite deficiencies in the agricultural area in which he said farmers and others have taken financial losses because of confusing governmental policies and orders.
“Financial losses are not a good sign for the country. It seems as if the authorities do not respect the Constitution and are not working to improve the situation,” he said.
As an example, he singled out some dam projects that he said neglected proper environmental impact studies and conservation techniques leading to flooding, which damaged farmers’ livelihood.
Citing government deficiencies in the industrial sector, he said: “Although factories were built, they did not have enough workers, including skilled workers, and the factories could not get enough electricity or fuel, including gas, and raw materials.”
Shwe Mann told lawmakers to learn from government mistakes in planning and management and to take bold steps to make changes.
“There are no benefits from blaming the events of the past,” he said. “ [You] just need to learn lessons from the mistakes in the past and to boldly make changes. You need to make actual reforms.
“Concepts and ‘mind sets’ need to be modern. Let’s make changes to get benefits. If you really love your country and the citizens, let’s work for people without political bias, regional bias and religious bias. Let’s work for the sake of the sixty million people in the population,” Shwe Mann told MPs.
Lawmakers need to listen to what people are saying, he said: “People’s voices, government employees’ voices, people’s desires and people’s hopes. I’d like to ask the most powerful Parliament, the Union Assembly of the Republic of Union of Myanmar, to approve [work for]people’s hopes.”
In similar remarks, on January 21, Shwe Mann who is also the vice chairman of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), told party members at a press conference in Naypyitaw: “Don’t involve [yourself]in a dog-eat-dog world. If [the party]finds you guilty, you’ll be dismissed.”
In 2010, Shwe Mann resigned from the army as a general. In September 2010, at a ceremony in Naypyitaw to mark the International Day of Democracy, he called himself a “democrat.”
Shwe Mann, 65, graduated in 1969 from the Defence Services Academy, Intake 11. He was promoted to general in 2005. As a USDP candidate he won the parliamentary seat in the Zeyar Thiri Township constituency. He is also a member of the government’s National Security and Defence Council, the highest authority in the Union.