By July Moe (Myanma Alinn)
The government has been combating corruption with all-out efforts in accord with the law, without any having favoritism. The Office of the Union Attorney-General UAGO is also a significant player in this endeavour. Law officers have the duty to give appropriate legal punishment to those who are guilty, and protect the innocent under the umbrella of the law. The following is an interview with the Union Attorney-General U Tun Tun Oo.
Q: The Office of the Union Attorney-General UAGO is involving in all the three organs of power – the legislative power, the administrative power and the judicial power. Please explain your role in the legislative sector and the effectiveness of the work.
A: The final body of the legislation is the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Union Parliament). First bills are written and submitted to discuss in the Hluttaw. There are two bodies to deal with the bills. The first is the government departments and the second the MPs of the Hluttaw.
Our office checks the bills and give suggestions on them. Then the bills are sent to the government for approval. Then they were discussed at the Hluttaw. The relevant bill committees continued discussions with the relevant departments and our office. Moreover, we also deal with bills drawn by Pyidaungsu Hluttaw’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission. We have scrutinized and gave suggestions on 118 bills and 165 rules, regulations, orders and directives during the two-year term of the government. We have to check whether the bills do not oppose the existing laws, they are just and fair, they serve the majority interest, they are practical, they are overlapping and they are in accord with the fundamental principles. During the period we could scrutinize a certain number of important bills in connection with registration, rural development, hate speech protection, consumer protection, violence against women, communications, companies act, forestry, and tax.
Q: What about UAGO’s involvement in the government’s administrative sector.
A: We gave legal advice to anybody whether it is the President’s Office or the Union Government Office or any Union level bodies in connection with the administrative affairs.
During the second year we gave 745 advices in connection with international and regional agreements and MoUs and 31 advices to region and state governments. We gave legal advices for international conventions and protocols such as the Myanmar-EU investment promotion and protection and the Myanmar-Singapore investment promotion and protection in which Myanmar will become a member. We also deal with conventions and protocols on economy and most of them concern with production-sharing agreements on minerals and construction contracts. Recently we have checked 548 business agreements between the ministries and the local and foreign companies and 221 cases sent by the Offices of Advocate General of the regions and states governments and our branches. Our involvement with the administrative committees, legal affairs committees and investment committees of Dawei and Kyaukpyu special economic zones is important. We have helped solve 433 general cases including social affairs, legal punishments, and paroles.
Q: Your participation in cases in connection with the law suits and criminal cases.
A: UAGO at different levels serve as prosecutors of the government in various cases. The branches of UAGO at region/state leves, district levels and townships levels have gave nearly 77,000 legal advices in connection with this matter. Recently they have taken part in the over 9000 amended cases, over 5000 appeals, 10518 withdrawals and nearly 300 civil law cases. As for the UAGO it took part in the 86 certiorari cases at the Union level and two case at the Union Election Commission Office. It is striving for the rule of law and to prevent occurrence of delays in the legal cases. Since 2016 it has been opening pilot law officers to deal with the matter.
Q: We know that UAGO is serving as the chair of the coordination body to ensure the rule of law and justice. What are the functions in connection with the rule of law?
A: The Union government formed the body in February last year. It then formed the sub-committees in all regions and states for the effectiveness of the work. The coordination bodies are coordinating with the relevant departments in making fair decisions for the complaints presented by the people. Recently they have solved over 500 cases through coordinated efforts. The Conference on Justice Sector Coordinating for Rule of Law was held on March 7 and 8. The conference could find more effective ways and means to implement the tasks of the bodies. So, we hope that they will gain greater success in the future.
Q: Please elaborate on the establishment of the Myanmar Law Information System by the UAGO.
A: UAGO has set up the Myanmar Law Information System in cooperation with Ministry of Legislation of the Republic of Korea under the assistance of KOICA. The aim is to ensure a single Online site for the public to find all legal information and facts in disseminating awareness of the rule of law and legal knowledge.
The UAGO is making efforts to post a comprehensive array of gazettes issued in Myanmar since 1870, the Burma Code VOL 1 to 13, laws Myanmar has enacted since 1955 and their rules, principles, orders, directives, regulations on the Myanmar Law Information System website. In addition, latest developments on the laws including amendments and additions if any will be posted in real time. People can also easily find an international convention or a protocol in which Myanmar is a member on the website. Search can be made categorically or in alphabetic order or just by tying a word or a sentence of the respective law. The Myanmar Law Information System will be a reliable source or reference for legal experts, students, researchers, media persons and those who are interested in legal affairs.
Q: Please share knowledge on the Supreme Court Lawyers Council.
I am the chair of the council. It is formed with 11 members. The council deals with the complaints against lawyers and the application for its membership. Recently we are making a review of the council act to introduce amendments as necessary to be in conformity with the advancing era. The council holds its work meeting twice a year.
Q: What about the progress in the issuance of the Fair Trial Standards and codes of conduct for advocates.
A: We have published a book on Fair Trial Standards with the assistance of UNDP and IDLO with the aim of supporting the rule of law and justice.
The book includes international standards, internal laws and judicial procedures. The standards deal with matters to ensure equality before the law and social and legal benefits and protection.
Law officers will be able to handle the cases effectively by studying and applying the said standards. Civil rights can also be protected under the law thanks to the standards. Law officers should have the dignity as they are legal servants of the State. So codes of conduct for advocates have been issued in cooperation with UNDP. A law officer must have the Integrity, Impartiality, Propriety, Equality, Competence and Due Diligence, and Responsibility and Accountability in every case.
Q: What is your human resources development plan?
A: The UAGO is regularly conducting law officer grade-4 courses and refresher courses. And annually it is conducting special courses such as English proficiency courses and computer courses.
Nearly 600 attended the courses opened by the Central Institute of Civil Servant, other ministries and international organizations. Nearly 100 law officers were sent to 18 countries to attend international workshops, meetings and courses. Arrangements are being made for law officers to attend master’s degree courses and doctorate degree courses. Currently 21 per cent of laws officers are master’s degree holders and there are 15 Ph.D. holders. Continuous efforts are being made for further development of human resources.
Q: What are your methods to inform the public?
A: We are trying to open public relations units at all law offices to provide necessary facts and legal knowledge for the people in serving their needs. We opened a media course in cooperation with the USAID. We have already adopted rules for the public relations officers. We have added extra space in our new branch buildings to serve as information counters.
Q: Any more to tell us?
A: We are training our law officers to become trustworthy persons for the people, who stand and work by the law and to provide legal protection for the people. We would like to request public participation to reach this end.
(Translated by TMT)