Wednesday, October 13, 2010

‘Current climate hopeless for democracy in Burma’

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 22:10 Mizzima News Interview

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Tin Oo, vice-chairman of the National League Democracy that decided to boycott Burma’s first elections for two decades on November 7 underwent eye surgery in Singapore early this month.

Mizzima reporter Khin Pyu Win interviewed the opposition leader and former commander-in-chief of the Burmese military while he recuperated after an eye operation in Singapore.

How do you see the future of NLD and its existence?

They [junta] announced that NLD could not stand anymore as a party but the NLD is still the NLD (National League for Democracy). NLD has the chance of continuously standing as a party. Its role is to come back to reclaim our rights.

As NLD has decided not to re-register as a party with the election commission, how do you prepare for the continuance and progress of the party programme and activities?

Though they [the junta] claimed that NLD had been dissolved and nullified, they cannot dissolve our party as per the law because the NLD won the largest number of seats in the 1990 general election. This people’s verdict and mandate given by people are still with the NLD and its elected MPs. Dissolving and nullifying our party is meaningless because NLD has never violated any law, committed any offences or never carried out any unlawful activities, and because this mandate has never been implemented and executed. So the NLD still exists. Let it be as they think the NLD no longer exists but the NLD will always continue to exist among the people as a people’s party … by winning people’s support, sympathy and kindness.

The NLD will always exist as a party living among the people and relying on the people. We will carry out work as supported and mandated by the people. This is a point we firmly believe in. We shall reclaim our lost rights. As per the law, the right enjoyed by an individual or an organisation under the preceding law cannot be infringed by the succeeding law. If there is an infringement, it can be remedied by the courts. We have submitted all these points to the court. These grievances arising from the infringement of rights are not suffered only by the NLD and its elected MPs but also by the people who voted for the NLD to achieve liberty, democracy and human rights.

These grievances must be remedied by the court. As per the 1945 Specific Relief Act, any individual or organisation whose lawful rights enjoyed under a preceding law are infringed by a succeeding law, said individual or organisation can claim remedy for the relief of the grievances.

We have submitted our application to the court in accordance with the law. We firmly believe the court will pass its judgment correctly in this case. We are still waiting to give argument in this case and we can’t say how the court will decide on this case … Thus the NLD still legally exists. Flags, seals and office buildings of the party are not important. The election is also unimportant. The most important thing is to know that political stability cannot be achieved only through the electoral process. In a democracy, an election is a step and a part of it. That is right.

However, it is impossible to achieve political stability throughout the whole country only through such a process. Lasting peace can be achieved only through dialogue and agreement among the ruling military regime, pro-democracy forces and ethnic people. This is the firm belief and the firm stance of the NLD. So the NLD will never be nullified, it will always survive in this way now and in the future. The NLD firmly believes the party can serve the people in accordance with people’s desires in future as well. In this firm belief, NLD is bravely continuing to carry out its work.

In the 1990 general election, the people gave a great mandate to the NLD. What would the NLD like to say to the people in this upcoming election?

It’s very clear as we didn’t re-register our party and decided not to contest in this election … So we’ve made it very clear the people that we objected to the election and have boycotted it. The law says the people have to vote according to democratic principles. But at the same time, the law stipulates that the voter has the right to vote or not vote … So if they don’t like the candidates, they should not vote for them. As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi says, if the people do not like both the USDP [Union Solidarity and Development Party] or the NUP [National Unity Party], and some of the candidates as they appeared only in this election period, they should not vote for them. If they only want to vote for NLD, they should stay away from voting. So we gave a very clear message to the people to boycott the election, otherwise they will be confused. Talking about the election and boycotting the election at the same time would be inconsistent. So we told people clearly to boycott this election. Some ethnic people asked us for advice about voting for ethnic parties as they have difficulties and want to vote for these parties. We told them that if they believed these ethnic parties could give them autonomy, equality and the federal principles they wanted, to go ahead and vote for them. ‘It’s up to you’, we said.

In your view, what are the prospects for the second generation of the armed forces in current circumstances?

The military is governed by command. But even in the military, the soldiers want democracy and have democratic spirit because they are also people of Burma … they don’t want to see their relatives and fellow people suffer and they don’t want any governance anymore by military rule, military dictatorship and a single party. Among these servicemen, there are a lot of people who want democracy and human rights. But since they are under military command within the military establishment, they cannot yet work for these democratic and human rights. I believe they will join our democratic struggle when the political situation prevails in openness and peace. I don’t think all the Tatmadaw (military) servicemen would like to continue living under the current system.

What is your view on the formation of the Border Guard Force (BGF)?

I don’t like to speak out on this BGF issue because it will only serve to confuse the issue. It will be good if the junta can keep the promises it made when they reached those agreements. I’ve heard that both sides were giving different versions of events. So we don’t want to make any comment on these different versions because it can only add to the confusion of this issue. So I’d like to tell them only to continue this process between them peacefully and amicably.

Twenty-five per cent of seats are reserved for the military in parliament. Some believe this is wrong. How do you see this issue?

They [the junta generals] say they are leading the way to democracy. They coined their democratic system as genuine and disciplined democracy. Then they reserve 25 per cent of seats in parliament for servicemen. They can become MPs without contesting in elections. Now the leaders of the military are doing as they planned before. And then they formed Union Solidarity and Development Party to ensure victory in this general election.

This USDP was transformed from the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), which was formed as a social organisation and used as a tool and as stooges of the junta through the military-sponsored mass rallies that protested and chanted slogans against the pro-democracy movements and organisations. We knew well since its inception this so-called social organisation would certainly be transformed into a political party some day. So we protested against it in the past too. Now the situation has become very clear. This social organisation-turned-political party will utilise all possessions of the former USDA, money, finance, buildings, assets to stand in this election and to enslave the entire people and country under their military boots by winning … by all possible means.

They will legitimise their military rule by this election and this is just a magic show to the world to win world support. If they really believed in democracy, they wouldn’t need the 25 per cent reservation in parliament. Democracy must be represented by elected representatives. So it is contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stipulates that the governance shall be derived from the will of the people shown in periodic elections. Now 25 per cent of seats in parliament will be occupied by unelected servicemen. This is not the democracy. The USDP forced people to cast their votes in advance. And also they forced public servants to vote for them. They gave small loans to poor people and forced them to join their party and to vote for them. We do not have trust in them because of the 25 per cent quote. We were well aware of their plans in advance. So we have consistently protested against it.

In the next elections, will the NLD re-register and stand against in them?

We must wait and see the situation how much these current political parties can do after being elected … We must wait and see what the international community will say on the fairness and freedom of this election or if they [the junta generals] actually reform themselves with firm belief in democracy. We can say just that at this moment. Prevailing situations are hopeless for the emergence of democracy in our country.

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