Toward Democracy, Human Rights and Federalism

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Brief History

The National League for Democracy (NLD) won a resounding victory in the 1990 elections, winning over 80 percent of the Parliamentary seats at stake. The ruling military junta, then known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), launched a systematic campaign to prevent the NLD from forming a government. The junta also kept NLD Chairman U Tin Oo in jail and General Secretary Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.

The NLD and the other democratic organizations backed by the people, especially in Mandalay, who had found new strength in the NLD election victory, demanded the release of the NLD leaders and other political prisoners. NLD victory stunned the civilian operatives of the SLORC who started to fear reprisals as well as the generals who had believed the military-backed party, National Unity Party, would win the elections. The SLORC therefore reneged on its pre-election promise to transfer power to the elected party.

According to prevailing laws, SLORC was to have convened the Parliament within 60 days of holding the elections and that fell on 27 July 1990. In addition, repeated requests by the NLD for a meeting to discuss the future of the country were completely ignored by the SLORC.

When all reasonable options were exhausted and the voters were demanding the election winning party to act, the NLD decided to hold a conference at Gandhi Hall, Bo Aung Gyaw Street, Rangoon, on 28 and 29 July 1990. The SLORC was informed of the NLD's intention to hold the Gandhi Conference to seek its legitimate and constitutional rights according to the mandate given by the people.

As a response to the Gandhi Conference the SLORC issued its notorious Notification No. 1/90, on 27 July 1990 stating that only the SLORC has the right to exercise legislative, executive, and judicial powers and that it will not accept a government formed under an interim constitution.

Despite the SLORC Order, almost 400 members of the NLD Central Executive Committee and all elected members of Parliament from the NLD and sister parties--the Party for National Democracy and the Old Comrades League--party attended the Gandhi Conference and unanimously passed two key resolutions. The resolutions stated in the Gandhi Declaration were:

The transfer of power to the NLD in accordance with a revised version of the 1947 Constitution--a constitution that was drafted and ratified when the Parliamentary democracy was introduced to Burma in 1948.

The convening of the Parliamentary Assembly, which has the right to exercise legislative, executive, and judicial authority before the deadline of 30 September, 1990.

The resolutions passed by the Gandhi Conference were a direct challenge to SLORC's plan to ignore the election results and to continue military-dominated rule. The resolutions also contradicted Notification 1/90. The NLD knew that a confrontation was going to be unavoidable.

On 14 August 1990, Mandalay Division NLD Organizing Committee and elected NLD MPs from Mandalay Division held a meeting in Mandalay to review SLORC Order 1/90 and the Gandhi Declaration. They unanimously reconfirmed their rejection of SLORC s Notification 1/90 and decided to fulfill the responsibilities given them by the people in accordance with the principles outlined in the Gandhi Declaration.

Mandalay Division NLD also sent emissaries to various states and divisions to inform them of its decision and continue pursuing goals outlined in the Gandhi Declaration. More than 250 elected representatives signed statements of intent to see that the parliament was convened so that a democratic government could be formed. The statements were sent to the NLD Central Executive Committee which scheduled a meeting in Rangoon on 30 August 1990.
Before any final decision could be made by the NLD Central Executive Committee, SLORC arrested and jailed key NLD leaders U Kyi Maung, MP from Rangoon's Bahan Constituency, and spokesperson for the NLD; U Chit Khaing, MP from Mandalay's Taungtha Constituency, and Secretary of the NLD Central Committee; U Thein Tan, NLD Mandalay Divisional organizer, and member of the NLD Central Committee; U Ohn Kyaing, MP from Mandalay Southwest Constituency and member of the NLD Central Committee.

In response, elected representatives in Mandalay Division and other regions, with the assistance of divisional organizing committees, met in Mandalay and, on behalf of the NLD leadership took the initiative to formulate future action programs for the party.

In the meantime, the public, unaware of the arrangements being made, openly criticized the NLD for "inaction" and "indecisiveness" and for the delay in responding to the SLORC's move. Monk and student bodies of Mandalay proposed to provide 5,000 of their members to take charge of security if the NLD would convene a parliamentary meeting in Mandalay.

At the initiative of Mandalay NLD members, more than 100 MPs and NLD organizers from Mandalay, Sagaing, Pegu, Rangoon, Irrawaddy, and Magwe Divisions and the Kachin State convened in Mandalay on 29 September 1990 in spite the difficulties they were facing and the travel restrictions imposed by the military. The MPs present at the meeting were given to understand that the formation of a parallel government was the underlying objective as more than 250 elected representatives have already signed their intent to pursue that goal. The meeting agreed on the formation of an Action Committee of MPs, rejected SLORC's Notification 1/90, and decided to implement the resolutions of the Gandhi Declaration Conference. A group of seven MPs--"Special Leading Committee"-- were chosen at the meeting to map out the details of the action program.

On 1 October, the Special Leading Committee secretly met at a location on Mandalay-Maymyo road, and made several historic decisions. The following four resolutions decided at that meeting and endorsed at separate NLD meetings held later were instrumental in the birth of the NCGUB:

Establish a legitimate Government in Mandalay or an appropriate place within the country with the support of elected representatives,
If conditions in the country were not favorable to form of a Government then to do it in the liberated areas with MPs representing different regions of Burma,
Establish contacts with the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB), the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF), and other revolutionary forces, to seek their assistance in setting up a legitimate Government in the liberated area, and
Seek diplomatic and other forms of support from the international community.

Two elected representatives were sent to the Thai side to contact with the revolutionary forces and got their support. Several MPs headed by Dr. Sein Win left Burma for Manerplaw to form a government on the Thai-Burma border.

In the meantime, SLORC decided to crack down on the NLD. NLD offices were raided; NLD representatives and supporters detained, and monasteries searched and sympathizers were arrested. Several MPs selected to form a government in exile were arrested in the raids and did not make it to Thailand.

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma was officially formed in Manerplaw on 18 December 1990. One of the declared principles was that it would be dissolved once democracy and human rights are restored in Burma.

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