Toward Democracy, Human Rights and Federalism

Friday, February 3, 2012

Op-Ed by Dr Sein Win / Jared Genser

Friday, October 24 2008, 05:43 PM EDT
TODAY marks 13 years that the world's only imprisoned Nobel peace prize laureate, and Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has spent under house arrest in her country. (Sein Win and Jared Genser)

TODAY marks 13 years that the world's only imprisoned Nobel peace prize laureate, and Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has spent under house arrest in her country.

Stoically battling ill health and relentless in her pursuit of freedom for her people, The Lady's unjust imprisonment is a powerful reminder of a brief moment of freedom realised by Burma's people and the dream that remains unfulfilled.

While some governments find it convenient to treat the symptoms of this regime's malfeasance — the terrible humanitarian challenges facing its people — the root cause of these problems is the fundamental lack of accountability from a military dictatorship ruling with an iron fist.

Burma's recent engagement with the international community in the wake of cyclone Nargis is yet another skilfully deployed smokescreen by the regime, designed to postpone any meaningful discussion of political reform.

Nevertheless, the release of Suu Kyi and that of other political prisoners in Burma remains the only true bellwether to measure whether Burma is serious about political reform.

Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy to an overwhelming victory in 1990. The NLD and its allies gained 82% of the total vote in what was the last free and fair election in Burma. The military, in power since a coup in 1962, refused to recognise the result and annulled the parliament.

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma is comprised of those elected officials, never allowed to take office, who remain in exile.

Suu Kyi has been in and out of house arrest for most of the past 19 years, even since before those elections. She has been there non-stop since 2003, following a rally in Depayin, where regime thugs murdered more than 70 democracy activists in an attempt on her life. She escaped with minor injuries.

Suu Kyi's release has been called for by sources as diverse as US first lady Laura Bush, financier and philanthropist George Soros, Nobel peace prize laureates Desmond Tutu and Lech Walesa and entertainers Bono and Jim Carrey.

In May last year, 59 former presidents and prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Vaclav Havel, George Bush snr and Benazir Bhutto, signed a letter urging her release. All recognise that democracy in Burma will remain a distant dream until Suu Kyi, along with about 2000 other political prisoners, is released and an inclusive and time-bound three-party dialogue between the NLD, ethnic groups, and the junta achieves a restoration of democracy to Burma.

This much was confirmed again in a recent report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He noted his frustration with the junta's unwillingness to agree to talks with Suu Kyi.

"Now is the time," he said, "for the military and the NLD to find ways to talk to each other and work together in the interest of the nation."

The fact that one of our generation's bravest and most enduring servants of human rights and justice remains in detention diminishes us all and mocks our notion of a global community.

That all the weight behind the campaign to release her has failed to move the junta stands as a victory for oppression and a distinct failure of the international political system.

Yet the shallow realities ruling the Burmese regime expose an intrinsic weakness in its administration. This is emphasised in Suu Kyi's famous "Freedom from Fear" speech, delivered in absentia in Strasbourg in 1991, when she was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize.

In her speech, Suu Kyi said that "within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day … A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom."

She said: "Fear is not the natural state of civilised man." In Burma, as elsewhere, dictatorship is against nature.

As such, in the name of a generation, we call for the immediate release of Suu Kyi and her fellow political prisoners. We urge the international community, and especially Ban and the UN Security Council, to end one of the most sustained, corrosive, and damaging regimes of our era and to push for the beginning of the end of Burma's decades-long oppression.

In doing so, we call for the restoration of democracy to Burma and for the natural state of Burma, of a peace-loving, tolerant and prosperous society, to once again flourish.

All must know that this will not occur while Suu Kyi and her colleagues remain imprisoned.

Sein Win is prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma. Jared Genser is president of Freedom Now and counsel to Aung San Suu Kyi.

No comments:

Post a Comment