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EC and immigration authorities play blame game

A young woman casts her vote at a polling booth during Myanmar’s historic general election held after 20 years in 2010. Photo: Mizzima

By Nan Hnin Lwin
September 15, 2013
The status of white card holders’ right to
vote in the forthcoming 2015 general election is still uncertain. The Election
Commission (EC) and Immigration Department are playing the blame game by
denying their responsibility on the issue.
The white cards are provisional identity cards
issued by the Immigration Department to citizens whose identity and
nationalities could not be ascertained.
Khin Yee, Minister of the Ministry of
Immigration and Population said, “The Immigration Department is responsible for
granting citizenship. Setting rules on the 
right to franchise is not our job. We cannot decide who can and cannot
cast votes,” to Mizzima’s query on September 15 at a press conference held in
the Yangon Region Legislative Assembly building.
Similarly, the Union Election Commission
Chairman Tin Aye, at a press conference held at Inya Lake hotel on September
14, told reporters that the EC had no responsibility on the issue.
“The inquiry should be made to the Immigration
department. Only they can verify citizenship and party membership. If they
approve the citizenship of these people, we cannot deny citizens their right to
vote. We must seek confirmation from the Immigration Department on these cases.
If the Immigration department confirms their citizenship, we must follow their
decision”, said Chairman Tin Aye.
When Mizzima asked Immigration Minister Khin
Yee to respond to the EC Chairman, he replied, “We issued white cards to those
whose citizenships were uncertain. A decision on whether white card holders
should be granted the right to vote or not, must be made by the EC. I think
what he said meant was the Immigration Department’s only concern was granting
citizenship.”
Upper House MP Dr. Aye Maung, from Rakhine
moved a motion at the Parliament during its sixth session to enact a law
regarding franchise right of white card holders and the house accepted the
motion for deliberations.
Khin Saw Wei, Rakhine MP from Rethetaung constituency
said that the motion would be deliberated upon during the seventh session.
“Such law should be enacted in our country. In
Rakhine state, many white cards were issued so that people can cast votes in
the general election. In fact, they should have not done that.  It is not practiced internationally,” she
said.
During the 2010 general election, the military
regime issued white cards to non-citizens and granted them the right to vote.
The controversial move was criticized by politicians, opposition and the media
at that time.
EC Chairman Tin Aye admitted to the
journalists at the press conference held on September 14 that mistakes were
made in the previous general election.
 
He also pledged that there would be no
mistakes in the upcoming general election in 2015.