Burma’s Constitutional Tribunal informed Parliament on Monday that the articles of the recently passed Referendum Law that granted white card holders voting rights are in violation of the Constitution. Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann read out the Tribunal’s verdict stating that “white card holders are ineligible to vote in a referendum on amendment[s] of [the] State Constitution,” as it violated the charter’s Article 4, Article 38(a) and Article 391, state media reported on Tuesday. According to Article 391, only those with citizenship can be granted voting rights, the verdict stated. The verdict of the Tribunal had become a moot point after President Thein Sein last week decided to backtrack on the implications of the Referendum Law he had sent to Parliament by issuing a directive that let all temporary identification cards expire per March 31.
The decision automatically revoked the voting rights of the approximately 750,000 card holders, which for the most part comprise members of the stateless Rohingya Muslims in western Burma’s Arakan State. An unknown number of ethnic Chinese, Kokang and Wa minorities are also white card holders.
Before the president’s directive was issued, opposition lawmakers of Arakanese and other ethnic parties, and the National League for Democracy asked the Tribunal to review the Referendum Law as they oppose enfranchising the holders of the cards, who are not granted citizenship rights under Burmese law.
Although the verdict had lost much of its importance after the directive was issued, opposition lawmakers said they were pleased with the Tribunal’s decision, which meant that the Referendum Law will have to be amended and again be put to a parliamentary vote.