Sunday, August 14, 2011

SEA Games and national reconciliation

Sunday, 14 August 2011 10:55 Mizzima News

(Editorial) - While dealing with the bad days, the people of Burma recollect memories of the country’s golden days.

Memories to be cherished often revolve around sports. Although Burma’s sporting prowess has not yet reached a world level, it has never lagged behind in the Southeast Asian region.

Will the Burmese have cause to cheer their country when
they host the SEA Games in 2013? Photo: MFF
For those who recall, during the 1961 South East Asia Peninsular Games (SEAP), Burma won 57 gold medals. After that, though, the Burmese people could only watch international sports events in foreign countries through the media from afar.

Now Burma has been granted the opportunity to host the Southeast Asian Games to be held in 2013. Whether or not the people can enjoy these games happy and united will depend to a large extent on the political development in the country.

A political game is underway and the people are keeping an eye on the score.

The meeting that has just taken place between Aung San Suu Kyi and government minister Aung Kyi was the second meeting under the new government. Aung Kyi met Aung San Suu Kyi seven times under the rule of Senior General Than Shwe but was unable to produce any results. Moreover, the new government is made up of just the old men in new clothes, so it is natural not to expect anything from these current meetings.

To alleviate and relieve these doubts, they must release all political prisoners and at the same time engage in dialogue with people in the ethnic states to resolve their issues.

In fact, two dialogue partners are treading cautiously as their objectives and aims are quite different. The government centered on the army wants the opposition to join their parliament under conditions of limited freedom. The 2008 Constitution is ready to limit their freedom in parliament, protecting the power-holders from being challenged in the parliament chambers.

The new government is continuously advocating a “gradual democratization” as being the best way in this ethnically diverse society and amid the armed conflicts. Yet the popular pro-democracy leader does not agree with the power-holders’ “disciplined democracy” and their roadmap to reaching their vision of democracy and also she refuses to take part in their democratization process. She only wants to engage in dialogue with the highest authority first to get an agreement and then to draft what she considers to be a free and fair constitution. So either accepting this constitution or amending it becomes crucial.

Given these disagreements, there is a real need to build confidence. So far the two sides have said their meetings were productive, so we would like to believe they are really productive. In the second meeting, we gained more insight about what was discussed after they issued a statement outlining four points. The points they highlighted were the desire to cooperate for the stability and development of the country; the desire to cooperate in the flourishing of democracy in the country; to avoid conflicting views and focus on cooperation; and to continue the meetings.

The meetings will in time show whether the new government is moderate or is in the process of becoming moderate. And at the same time, these meetings may help alleviate the government’s doubt and prejudice about her so that they let her carry out some activities under certain limitations. So we welcome these meetings and urge them to continue them.

As the time passes, the people will want to see transparent and substantial development. They will ask what progress they have made, either in terms of national reconciliation or cooperation by eliminating differences among them. Releasing political prisoners is major issue for the opposition groups. There is a need to release ethnic leaders like Khun Htun Oo, and 88 generation leaders such as Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi at the earliest date. The lower the number of political prisoners, the higher will be the dignity and reputation of the government. In this way, they can help cure the hatred against them by the people. And through this process, the government can obtain the opposition leader’s cooperation in either foreign affairs or the country’s economics which will contribute to uplifting their image.

At the same time, the government must engage in dialogue with ethnic organizations in areas where the recent 2010 general election could not be conducted. This must be done simultaneously—they should not practice “divide-and-rule” tactics and drive a wedge between them. Observing a nationwide ceasefire and engaging in dialogue with the representatives of ethnic organizations can lay the foundation stone for building national reconciliation.

If these developments are real, the SEA Games in 2013, which will be held in Burma again after 44 years, can really be enjoyed by the people and there will be reason to cheer.

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