10 years on: What next for the CRPP?

Htet Aung Kyaw

Sep 16, 2008 (DVB), As the Committee Representing the People's Parliament marks ten years since its formation, DVB asked three elected representatives what the organisation has achieved and how it should move forward.

CRPP secretary Aye Thar Aung, who is also secretary of the Arakan National League for Democracy and an ethnic people's representative, explained how the CRPP came about.

"In order to bring into effect the result of the 1990 election, a demand was made to the SPDC in 1998 to recognise the election result and convene a parliament within 60 days led by the Nation League for Democracy, who won most of the seats," he said.

"The secretary general of the NLD, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, also invited, met and held discussions with ethnic national parties, urging them to cooperate in the emergence of a parliament."

The ethnic parties who took part in the discussions were Aye Thar Aung's Arakan National League for Democracy, the Mon National League for Democracy led by Nai Tun Thein, the Zomi National Congress led by U Pu Cin Sian Thang and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy led by Khun Tun Oo, who is now in detention.

Before the 60 days had elapsed, 110 MPs including all ethnic nationality representatives apart from Aye Thar Aung and all NLD MPs except central executive committee members were being detained in government guesthouses, and 43 NLD townships had been sealed off.

Saw Mra Aung of the Arakan National League for Democracy, who had been elected chair of the parliament, was among those detained.

Those who were not arrested formed the CRPP on 16 September 1998, with signatures of support from 251 elected MPs.

The initial 10-member committee was made up of nine NLD members, led by Aung Shwe, with Aye Thar Aung to represent the ethnic nationalities.

CRPP's statements were broadcast almost every day by supportive media outlets.

When the MPs were released, Khun Tun Oo, Nai Tun Thein, and Pu Cin Sian Thang were accepted as new members.

The CRPP's activities were hampered by further arrests, including of Aung San Suu Kyi and Aye Thar Aung, but after Aung San Suu Kyi was released in October 2001, it was strengthened with new members.

The first new member was U Htaung Ko Thang of the United Nationalities League for Democracy. He was followed in December 2002 by U Soe Win of the National Democracy Party and the National Democratic Party for Human Rights' U Kyaw Min, who is now in prison.

U Hla Maung of the Patriotic War Veterans, independent MP U Thein Pe from Kantbalu and U Yan Kye Maw of the Kokang Democratic Party also became members, bringing the total to 19.

Soe Win of the National Democracy Party said the CRPP had brought together elected representatives from different parties with a common goal.

"Daw Suu tried very hard to unite the election-winning parties and ethnic nationalities as [her father] general Aung San had done at the Panglong Conference [in 1947], and that is how the CRPP emerged," he said.

"As we were detained at the time, we were unable to join them. In 2003, I joined as the National Democracy Party representative. When we joined, we had many hopes; we would try to form a parliament by joining hands with our ethnic brothers and build a peaceful Burma with love and unity," he continued.

"But now I have to admit our hopes are still far from being fulfilled. I feel disappointed with myself."

Political analysts say that the lack of CRPP activities became more apparent after the United Nations special envoy Razali reported that talks would be held between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the military government.

Reports in the state media said the CRPP was aiming for confrontation rather than dialogue because of its focus on the 1990 election result.

The CRPP held back on its activities while there seemed to be a real prospect for dialogue, but by the time it became apparent that the promised dialogue would not materialise, the CRPP had lost some of its momentum.

"There were prospects and good indications for dialogue. The NLD started preparing for dialogue and there were also discussions with ethnic parties on the matter," Aye Thar Aung said.

"Many people, including the NLD, put much of their energy into it , we were hopeful about the prospect of dialogue between the NLD and the authorities," he said.

"As I see it, more attention was given to as how our side was going to open the dialogue and at which level, and what the authorities were going to do and how they could find a compromise," he went on.

"The interest in how the dialogue was going to happen became stronger than the interest in CRPP's future activities."

Despite the initial dominance of the NLD, all the parties and representatives within the CRPP play and equal role in decision making, according to Khun Myint Tun, an NLD MP in exile.

"Although the NLD was responsible for forming the CRPP, it is not under NLD authority," Khun Myint Tun said.

"The CRPP is a committee representing the people's parliament using the power given to it by the parliament, so the NLD is included in the CRPP as a member and other groups such as UNLD; it is a committee representing the election-winning parties," he said.

"When CRPP holds a meeting and makes a decision, it is done with the consent of all its members, the NLD can't dominate it. We all have equal rights to discuss and decide there, however many elected members we have," he said.

"That is the unique thing about the CRPP."

Aye Thar Aung said there were diverging views on the best way forward for the CRPP.

"Some people believe that with this kind of political situation in Burma it is best to find a solution through dialogue," Aye Thar Aung said.

"But on the other hand, [the government] is unilaterally implementing its road map and is only working on the dialogue for show, if at all , they will try to accomplish their road map by any means," he said.

"But one of the weaknesses of this side is that the NLD secretary general Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was detained after the Depayin attack and cooperation between NLD leadership and participating ethnic national parties' is not as active as it was before.

"I can see that there are differing views and ideas on how to continue in the future, that's why the CRPP's discussions have become less frequent lately, to the point of not even being able to call a meeting."

Despite the recent lack of activity, Khun Myint Tun insists that the CRPP remains relevant.

"The CRPP was formed to bring into effect the result of the 1990 election and the emergence of people's parliament and so there remains a great need [for the CRPP] to take us along the path to democracy," he said.

"At the moment, there is the credential challenge to the SPDC at the UN, where it is crucial to support the CRPP," he said.

"No one can do that except the CRPP. The 1990 election result and the CRPP were supported by the people. It is up to us how we are going to make them work."

Khun Myint Tun said that dialogue could be a method for bringing about democracy, but was not an aim in itself.

"The demands of the people during the 8888 uprising were the abolition of military rule and the emergence of democracy; this is the aim," he said.

"To make this happen, we accept dialogue as a tactic. We can't just wait for it. You can't just coax the SPDC , it has no plan to hold dialogue," he explained.

"If we believe that problems could be solved by means of dialogue, we have to pressure the SPDC to come to the negotiating table. Dialogue will only happen when we put great pressure on the SPDC."

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