Rule of law and stability


MP Thein Nyunt visiting a jail (Photo: EMG)

Minn Lwin (Ahnakala), a member of the Students Organisation for National Politics, suggests in this article that democratic value can best bridge dilemma between the rule of law and stability.

In fact, I have no desire to neither write such topic nor talk about it. However, when I witnessed an untoward event, there is no alternative but to write this opinion.

In Myanmar’s transition period and being a young democracy, democratic values must be upheld. During the autocratic rule, unruly acts occurred. Heads of organizations decided on the basis of emotion. But now, the greater majority believes that such unnecessary incidents should not happen under a civilian government.

That is why the “Rule of Law and Stability Committee” headed by Aung San Suu Kyi has been created. It indicates that unlawful acts and instability still exist in the country.

I would like to quote an example, a true story, which I witnessed on my way home from the office. An accident involving two vehicles took place at the 8th mile junction on October 2, 2012. The car collision happened between the car on the fixed white line demarcation in the center of the road and another vehicle.

In the usual customary scene, both the vehicles stopped near the road platform. But the group from the reckless car stepped out and brandished three-foot long iron rods. The rowdy group was accompanied by another car, where there were female passengers. The unruly group brought out the weapons even before negotiations began.

The pedestrians gathered around the site. The unruly group was threatening to harm with iron rods the two people in the other car. It was unbelievable. They were clearly bullying them.

Then a police officer arrived at the accident scene. In spite of the presence of the traffic police officer, the angry group was still fuming. One can imagine how the dare devils would act if there were no law enforcement officers. Were they not citizens of Myanmar? Who are standing behind this wild group? I was just wondering.

In such a car accident, the ability and capability of the traffic police are very much critical. This is what we call “capacity”. The responsible police officer must intervene and instruct both parties and come up with a clear-cut decision. The police officer must stop both groups with courage and guts.

The law enforcement agencies are imparted and trained with various courses to deal with such situations. The police officers must also be well-versed with existing laws. People put their faith on the police to never turn a blind eye on the law breakers.

The police must carefully investigate the people involved—before, during and after the incident. In other words, they must know the person’s desire, their actions and purpose. The main responsibility of law enforcement agencies is to deter and prevent such incidents before they take place.

The unruly people involved in the car accident clearly showed that they had intended to use force. The police officer must stop the rowdy group with courage by telling them that legal action will be taken against them for having in possession weapons that could kill others. Only then will such reckless and inhuman acts be deterred from happening in the future.

The traffic officer must not be indecisive. If one is to uphold the law manual, one must act with courage and be unafraid. The law will always stand by and prevail on the side of the one who is right. If the police officer sided with someone who breached the law, then he will be held responsible. Police officers must also remember that superior officers cannot be relied upon.

Now, the Lower House formed a Committee for Rule of Law and Stability chaired by Suu Kyi. This committee is currently studying courts and police stations. Its findings will be reported to the Parliament.

In practice, officials from the administrative sector are handling these matters. As these administrative bodies are directly dealing with the cases through their respective departments, the necessary reform should be made by the Union Government.

Soon, the committee will raise questions before the Parliament, and present its proposals and suggestions. However, there is a long way to go before the basic policy could be changed. As the main duty of the Parliament is for legislation, the Rule of Law and Stability Committee should assist in this task.

Some people might raise this: “When a new law is enacted, then everybody must comply and abide by the law. The government, the law enforcement agency members and the people are to respect the law. Those who breach the law must face legal action.”

I won’t deny. It’s true. All citizens must obey and respect the law. However, various laws are already in place. Why have people and officials failed to abide by these laws? What I would like to say is that if we could not address current problems in accordance with existing laws, then we could not expect much in the future with new laws.

Let’s look at the case of the described car accident. It can be clearly seen that the responsible officer was indecisive at a critical time. Bloodshed was avoided only because the angry group decided to step back. Even in metropolitan Yangon, the wild acts of desperados and lunatics are on the rise. It may be worse elsewhere in the countryside. This rude culture must be curbed with the rule of law.

The murder case committed by a reckless group in Shar Khe Village of Kyonpyaw Township could also be made as a case study. Another murder case committed by a lunatic group in North Okkalapa Township has stirred fear among the public as it might spread to other places.

Stability will prevail only when there is rule of law, and these two elements could never be separated. We could not expect stability without the rule of law. As the rule of law is the top requirement, the responsible organizations as well as the entire public must abide by these laws.

I would like to say that if there is lapse on either side, then rule of law would fail. The stable condition would turn into an unstable one. It must be in the citizens’ consciousness to abide by rules. Along with democratic values, the morals of citizens are as equally important. Citizens must be worthy of a democracy.

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