Toward Democracy, Human Rights and Federalism

Friday, February 3, 2012

South Africa's Gandhi Award for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Tuesday, July 21 2009, 03:39 PM EDT

The leader of Burma's democracy movement Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Award for Peace and Reconciliation (MAGI award) at the City Hall in Durban, South Africa, on 20 July 2009.

Dr Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, and cousin of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi accepted the prize on behalf of the Nobel Peace Laureate and also gave an acceptance speech (reported separately). Deputy Minister for International Relations Ebrahim Ebrahim presented the award.
The ceremony was attended by over 700 people, including Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ismal Ebrahim, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, government officials and well known former anti-apartheid activists, and activists and other people from the grassroots social networks, civil organizations, and unions.

Dr. Thein Win and chairperson of FBCSA attended the ceremony on behalf of Free Burma Campaign, South Africa.

At the ceremony, a trustee the Gandhi Development Trust gave a speech about the MAGI Award and the reasons why Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was chosen for the 2009 Award. He said 20th July was chosen as the date to present the award because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for the first time on that date in 1989.

The Nobel Laureate's strict adherence to Gandhi principles even at the risk of her life was also lauded. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had appealed to South Africa to help the people of Burma. He quoted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's comments during her interview with BBC's Lyse Doucet in 2002 when she said: "I am very wary of giving people advice. But I would like to remind the people of South Africa that they have been through very, very difficult times themselves and we would appreciate it very much if they could view our situation with sympathy and do whatever they can to help us. I sometimes think that when change comes to a country like South Africa, people in authority forget that once upon a time they too were struggling. I have to be quite frank and say that I have often wondered whether the present government of South Africa does everything it can to support our cause or whether it is even interested in doing everything that it can to support our cause."

In his speech, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize spoke about South African Government's position on Burma, mentioning particularly about the "misunderstanding" about the Burma Resolution at the United Nations and promising that South Africa will now be following the position of the international community and the United Nations with regard to its Burma policy.

The Gandhi Development Trust (GDT) was established on the 19th August 2002 with the aim of promoting Gandhian values in order to build a spirit of reconciliation and to create a culture of peace and non-violence locally and internationally. The Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation (MAGI Awards) was created in memory of Mahatma Gandhi who began his socio-political life in South Africa and struggled ceaselessly for justice and for peace and reconciliation. It is one of the highest honor awards in South Africa and former President Nelson Mandela was awarded before.

South Africa's Offer To Negotiate Turned Down by Burma

Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim met with the Burmese ambassador U Tin Oo Lwin on 25 May to convey the message from the South African Government.

He expressed South Africa's continuing concern about the re-arrest of the leader of the National League for Democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, calling for her immediate and unconditional release and a normalizing a political climate conducive to free and fair elections. The South African Government, he said, would like to see Burma returning to civilian rule, with a multi-party and functioning democracy.

South Africa stands ready to assist in its transition, and proposed that a delegation visit Burma to facilitate a negotiation process amongst the various political parties.

The military regime turned down the SA Government’s offer and only accepted "goodwill visit" to the country.

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