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U Ko Ni: A man of mountains of knowledge on constitutional reforms

Haikal Mansor
RB Article
January 29, 2018

Widely considered as the architect of “State-counsellor” position created for Aung San Suu Kyi after Myanmar’s Constitution barred her the presidency.

Born in Katha, Sagaing Division on February 11, 1953, Abdul Gani, better known as U Ko Ni was the only child of father Sultan Mohammed and mother Halima Khin Hla.

U Ko Ni has read law at University of Yangon and founded Laurel Law Firm. He has served as the brainstem of “Central Committee for Constitutional Amendments”, and also as the legal advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD (National League for Democracy) party.

Being the only person who truly understood the military-drafted Constitution inside out, which assures the military 25% of parliamentary seats and three important ministries – Defense, Border Affairs and Home Affairs, U Ko Ni was the critical of the 2008 Constitution.

On DVB Debate, U Ko Ni explained the constitution, “[We] will change. [We] can change [the Constitution]. Since we will change under Charter No. 12, the charter was in the first place drafted with the grate mind. “One day, people will attempt to amend this constitution, we must block [all loopholes] amending it from now.” It was drafted with that goal. Because it is clear. 76% must approve [to amend it]. There is only 75% public [elected MPs] in the Parliament.”

“To receive 76% support the Commander-in-Chief must agree. It cannot be done without the agreement of the Commander-in-Chief. So, there’s no other constitution in the world like Myanmar’s Constitution which can be amended by an individual’s agreement.”

“If we follow the book in amending it, it is called the drafted amendment protocol. When the written procedure is too rigid [in order to] prevent amendment, we can change it through another way for the country. This is not illegal way. It is called informal way.”

He has reportedly drafted a new charter to amend the military-backed constitution.

On January 29, 2017, the nation lost its most illustrious constitutional technician in an assassination at Yangon International Airport when waited for a taxi with his grandchild in his arms after he was back from Indonesia to study democracy and conflict resolution.

Police arrested the gunman Kyi Lin, who also killed Taxi Driver U Nay Win while apprehending the assassin.

Four suspects - Aung Win Tu, Aung Win Zaw, Kyi Lin and Zayar Phyo, of the assassination are on trial for several months without the main suspect ex-army Lt-colonel Aung Win Khaing who is still at large.

Someone in the high military hierarchy has ordered to kill the fiercely intelligent mind to stop his fearless drive to change the constitution.

“He was probably one of the most important people in the opposition movement. The opposition of the constitution. He was obviously very incredible legal mind. He always said, “please don’t describe me as Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal advisor.” But in fact he was. He was also the advisor to the National League for Democracy on Constitutional Reforms.

“Over 12 months ago, when I spoke to military sources of mine, they told me [that] U Ko Ni is the greatest enemy of the country. He is someone we fear, not because he was a Muslim, but of course, that coloured their values, because he was the one strongly pushing for constitutional charge,” described Larry Jagan, an expert on Myanmar.

U Ko Ni was also drafting to change MaBaTha-proposed Four “Race and Religion Protection” laws which were adopted under the Thein Sein’s government. He was attempting to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law which stripped Rohingya of citizenship.

It took nearly a month for Aung San Suu Kyi to speak to U Ko Ni’s family and publicly speak about the assassination of the Muslim lawyer.

U Ko Ni’s speech on the constitution:

At the time of [military] coupe in 1962, the richest country in South East Asian, and the country which possessed the best in Asia, became the world’s poorest country in 25 years later.

Why? The regime governed indisciplinarily removed the parliamentary Democratic government and replaced with the [military] dictatorship.

[For that reason] our extremely prosperous country went down to the world’s poorest life.

Like when there’s no life, there’s no value in a person. A country’s life is in its constitution. When there’s no constitution, the country is dead and useless.

Let’s imagine. At the time of Independence in 1948, our country had life, soul and constitution. 13 years later on March 2, 1962, the military forcibly removed the constitution – the country’s soul and heart from its body. Then, the dictator regime rule [the country].

Since that day, slowly and slowly, we reached the bottom of poverty. To what stage we have reached is that we hit the final bottom 10 of 211 countries of the world. We are on the 7th [poorest country].

As soon as the constitution was removed, we have witnessed [the consequences], until we have collapsed into poverty and until the death of the country.

Our people’s lives have been murdered. We were not treated as humans. We have suffered the repression of the military dictatorship. We all were forced to fear [the dictatorship].

We had no security of our lives and our properties. Our savings were confiscated in a blink of an eye. Our 5, 10, 75 kyats savings were demonetised. There is no security of our lives and our properties.

We had to live in these lives of despair as well as reached to the poorest country. The public was impaired in every aspect, and the country was torn apart.

It is the sign of country’s death after removal of the constitution. Therefore, the constitution is extremely important. How important it is that like life is important to human, [constitution’s] importance is that of country’s life and soul.

So for our Myanmar’s future, when we quickly redraft a new Democratic Constitution, we can carry on our life. We must try our future and our generations to reach the heights of our forefathers’ golden age and silver age.

I want to make you understand that the first job we have to do is to quickly redraw our country’s basic foundation – a genuine constitution.

U Ko Ni leaves behind his wife Daw Tin Tin Aye (aka Halima Banu), daughters – Yin New Khaing and Aye Thi Khaing, and son Thant Zin Oo.

U Ko Ni also leaves a void to fill the mountains of knowledge that he was gifted on the amendment of constitution.

And Myanmar Military continues to silence soul, heart, brain and body of people who attempt to change the military’s fraudulent constitution.

U Ko Ni will forever be remembered!

Dedicated by Haikal Mansor

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