Suu Kyi set for PM role

Suu Kyi has been generous with ministerial portfolios, taking four for herself. Source: Flickr

Aung San Suu Kyi plans to create a role for herself that will give her a prime ministerial role in the government, circumventing the constitutional block on her becoming Myanmar’s president.

The bill to establish a “state counsellor” position, with specific reference to the 70-year-old in the text, was the first piece of legislation put before parliament on the first day that the National League for Democracy (NLD) administration took office.

It passed the upper house on Friday but needs lower-house approval and presidential approval before becoming law. The NLD dominates both houses and appointed the president.

Section 59(f) of the 2008 junta-drafted constitution bars Suu Kyi from the presidency but she has been generous with cabinet posts, appointing herself minister of foreign affairs, president’s office, education and energy.

As state counsellor she will coordinate between political parties and organisations, effectively giving her influence in the executive and the legislature.

Her cabinet appointments forced her to step down as an MP, a role she has held since 2012. Suu Kyi is the only woman in the cabinet.

She has promised to rule “above the president” and President Htin Kyaw is a trusted school friend who is expected to act as a proxy.

The bill led to the first political battle Suu Kyi has fought with the military representatives in parliament since the president was sworn in last week.

The army-allied Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) also opposed it, claiming it was unconstitutional as the three branches of government, the executive, legislature and judiciary, should be separated. Military MPs, who are designated 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, also opposed the bill, saying it should be referred to a constitutional tribunal.

Colonel Hla Win Aung said the bill could “destroy” the balance of power between the legislature, executive and judiciary.

Suu Kyi is blocked from becoming president because her children and late husband are British nationals.

The junta held an election in 1990 in an effort to stop demonstrations and Suu Kyi’s NLD won an overwhelming 392 of the 492 seats, leading the generals to scrap the poll and imprison most of the democratic candidates.

There has also been controversy over the appointment of Kyaw Win to the Ministry of Planning and Finance. The veteran civil servant was quoted saying by the Myanmar Times that the doctorate listed on his NLD profile was fake.

The 68-year-old said he was a shocked to discover that his credentials were worthless after internet users pointed out that he had been cheated by a Pakistani firm.

His CV, published by the NLD, said he held a PhD from Brooklyn Park University, an online body that is known to sell fake degrees.

“I am not going to call myself ‘Dr’ any more, as I know now that it is a fake university,” Kyaw Win said.