Friday, September 22, 2017

U Shwe Mann fights party expulsion

Ousted Union Solidarity and Development Party leader Thura U Shwe Mann says he will keep fighting against his expulsion from the former ruling party, dismissing speculation that he intends to set up a new political organisation or join the National League for Democracy.

Thura U Shwe Mann held a press conference yesterday after being expelled from the USDP. Photo: Pyae Thet Phyo / The Myanmar TimesThura U Shwe Mann held a press conference yesterday after being expelled from the USDP. Photo: Pyae Thet Phyo / The Myanmar Times

‘’I’m not thinking about a new party,” he told reporters at a press conference he called in parliament yesterday.

“Currently I have no idea to join with the winning party [NLD]. I will continue to work on the commission’s matters for the interests of the country and the people,” the former general said, speaking as chair of parliament’s 35-member Legal Affairs and Special Issues Commission.

He defended his work on the commission following his appointment in February that reflected the close ties he fostered with NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi while serving as Speaker of the previous parliament.

Thura U Shwe Mann said this work did not pose a challenge to former president U Thein Sein who resumed active leadership of the USDP this month after handing over power to the first civilian-led government in over 50 years.

Ousted from party leadership in a purge led by U Thein Sein last August, Thura U Shwe Mann was among 17 USDP members to receive a notice of expulsion from the party on April 22. Two are government ministers appointed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi while 11 are on the legal affairs commission.

The press conference revealed the former Speaker’s intentions to continue waging a battle that has deeply divided the USDP and contributed to its resounding defeat in last November’s elections. Thura U Shwe Mann demanded that the USDP hold an emergency conference to decide whether the party had acted with due reason.

According to article 96 of the party’s basic principles, an emergency conference can be held if requested by one-third of central committee members. Thura U Shwe Mann claimed that there were members calling for such a conference, but that some members elected in 2012 had been removed last year in the leadership purge.

“We are going to do things according to the decision of central committee,” he added. He declined to elaborate on his next steps if no conference were to be held.

The ousted activists also released a nine-point statement responding to their expulsion, accusing the USDP of violating its statutes last August in its purge of the central committee which they compared to a “coup”.

They said in their statement that Thura U Shwe Mann and his allies had continued to campaign in the 2015 elections, helped form the new parliament and government, and had not harmed the prestige of the party while serving the people and the state.

“Although the USDP lost the elections, it came second after the NLD ... It is still a big party and still has power. Its actions still impact the interests of the people and the country,” Thura U Shwe Mann said.

Once the number-three general in the former military junta, Thura U Shwe Mann defended his relations with the Tatmadaw, which appear to be deteriorating following a public rebuke he received on April 26 in response to comments he directed at the Defence Services Academy.

The 68-year-old former decorated soldier said he maintained a strong attachment to the military he had served for 45 years.

“I love and respect the Tatmadaw. Also I want a Tatmadaw that the people love. I also want the Tatmadaw to be a professional and regular army,” he said.

U Tint Zaw, a central executive member at USDP headquarters, told reporters there that the 17 had been removed for violating party rules and regulations.

Thura U Shwe Mann said they had not been told which rules they had supposedly broken.

“This question of what kind of regulations we violated should be asked to the party. We got a three-sentence letter from the party. But I don’t know if they might say it was due to the activities of our commission,” he said.

He said the commission made suggestions to State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi based on reviewing, amending or scrapping laws with the aim of national development.

He reaffirmed that he would work together with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but that he did not work for her and the NLD. “I will work for the sake of the country and people,” he said. “But I work together with the winning party as I assume it would be better working in the people’s interest rather than working by myself,” he said.