An article on white-card holders’ voting rights written by advocate Ko Ni, a member of the central legal support committee for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and the central committee for constitutional amendments, did not represent the party, said Nyan Win, an NLD spokesman.
The article on temporary identity certificate holders, arguing that they should have a legal right to vote if their papers had been issued correctly, appeared in the Voice Weekly on February 7.
“His article did not represent the NLD. He is a legal expert. His opinions were expressed in his article. He did not represent the legal outlook of the NLD. He responded to the government’s decision to grant voting rights to white-card holders from his legal point of view. It is his own opinion,” Nyan Win said.
The article stated that the laws relating to the registration of citizens and the definition of white-card holders dated back to independence in 1948. The aim of issuing a certificate was to prove identify, Ko Ni wrote. An undocumented person could lose their rights.
People were issued a temporary identity certificate before being recognised as citizens. Ko Ni said temporary identity holders could be allowed to vote if the procedures had been followed correctly.
Issuing out a temporary identity certificate must be in conformity with the law, he said. Therefore, there was no reason to end the voting rights of the white-card holders, the article said.
The decision of the government and the Parliament to allow the white-card holders to vote was a lawful act, he said. The person to blame was the official who issued a temporary identity certificate to someone who did not meet the requirements, the article said.
Khin Yi, the minister for immigration and population, told the Irrawaddy News Agency: “It is not easy to say a person will be surely a citizen. The Immigration Department officially issued white cards in accordance with the law. We issue white cards only to the people who need citizenship and they will have to apply for citizenship. Only when they meet the requirements will they become citizens. Just holding a white card doesn’t make someone a citizen.”
The Union Parliament discussed the constitutional amendment bill and the national referendum bill along with the remarks of President Thein Sein on February 2 and decided to allow white-card holders to vote in the national referendum.
A total of 27 Upper House MPs petitioned against the decision and the issue was submitted to the Constitutional Tribunal through the Speaker of the Upper House on February 6.