RVISION July 22, 2016

According to the state government’s information department, drafting the program has involved nearly 10 government departments, including rural development, social welfare and urban development, which will all be working to explain the plans to the public in the coming days.

U Min Aung, the Arakan (Rakhine) State minister for urban development, said the departments have implemented many initiatives within their first 100 days in power, such as improving clean water supplies to areas facing water shortages and constructing cyclone shelters in areas prone to storms.

“We did as much as we could in terms of things that we have implemented within 100 days. We admit that we need to do more. Implementation is a long process,” U Min Aung said.

He said the state government’s thrice-delayed disclosure of the 100-day initiatives was due to major flooding in some parts of Arakan (Rakhine) State that had kept the government preoccupied in recent weeks assisting thousands of residents displaced by rising waters.

The state government, which like its Union-level counterpart had promised to makes its first 100 days in office noteworthy, has faced criticism for a lack of substantive improvements for constituents in the impoverished western state.

The Akkyab (Sittwe)based Arakan National Party has been reliably critical of the Arakan (Rakhine) State government headed by Chief Minister U Nyi Pu of the National League for Democracy. The ANP and the NLD have had an at-times acrimonious relationship, over issues ranging from leadership appointments to approaches on the contentious issue of citizenship for Muslims in Arakan (Rakhine) State.

U Tun Aung Kyaw, secretary of the ANP, which holds the most seats in the state parliament, said the state government had failed to take a leading role and was losing the faith of the public.

“Rakhine State needs development but the state government has been unable to do very basic, necessary things – likely [improving] transportation – within the 100 days,” he said.

U Nyi Pu has pushed back against such criticism, pointing to his government’s provision of humanitarian aid and resettlement assistance to people affected by the recent flooding.

Yesterday in Nay Pyi Taw, Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe told reporters the government had no plan to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law that has formed the basis for the verification program. The controversial legislation has been criticised by rights groups due to its three-tiered codification of citizenship and stipulations on who qualifies for citizenship that can be difficult for some to meet despite generations of ancestors having lived in the country.

“We have no plan to amend the law and please don’t worry about doing that,” U Thein Swe said. “We cannot amend it quietly. If we need to amend it, we need to submit [proposed changes] to parliament first.”

U Aung Kyaw Htwee, an Araqkan (Rakhine) State MP, said evaluating the state government’s early days in office was difficult in part due to its failure to effectively communicate its plans to constituents.

“They have no transparency about the 100-day plans. We don’t know clearly what this is and what is included in the plan. Therefore, how can one say what has improved and what has not improved?” said the state lawmaker representing Pauktaw township.

He said representatives from the executive did not appear before the state legislature to answer for the 100-day plans despite MPs having submitted questions on the matter.

Last week, the Arakan (Rakhine) State Peace, Stability and Development Committee held its second meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, establishing a 142-point agenda for Arakan (Rakhine) State aimed at addressing its needs.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the committee, has faced international pressure over conditions faced by the largely Arakanese Rohingya, who have seen little change to their circumstance in the first four months of the new administration. More than 100,000 Muslims remain confined to squalid camps where healthcare and education access is restricted, some four years after they were displaced by violence between Buddhists and Muslims that tore through the state.

Criticised abroad and assailed by some at home over matters as seemingly innocuous as terminology for the beleaguered Muslim minority, early-going scrutiny was perhaps an inevitability for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration and its counterpart in Arakan (Rakhine) State, where the interfaith dynamics are among the NLD’s thorniest challenges.

Prior to his appointment as chief minister, when he was a lawmaker in the Arakan (Rakhine) State legislature tipped for the post, U Nyi Pu sought to manage expectations, particularly on the ability of the then-incoming administration’s ability to tackle deep-seated mistrust and divisions between the state’s Buddhist and Muslim communities.

“It is impossible to unite them at once. We will have to do it step by step,” U Nyi Pu told The Myanmar Times in an interview from the state capital Akkyab (Sittwe) in February.

“So we need to give the process a lot of time. Therefore we cannot say it can be accomplished in our five-year term,” he said.

Note: Changes have been made, MYANMAR TIMES is not responsible for these.