New NLD central committee holds first meeting

Jan 19, 2010 (DVB), Burma's opposition National League for Democracy party yesterday held its first senior-level meeting following the expansion of its central committee.

The nine new members, which include one woman, joined with the old guard of the NLD's central executive committee (CEC) after detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month called for fresh blood in the party.

At 64, Suu Kyi was the youngest of the 11-member committee, while nine are in their 80s and 90s and most of them are said to be in bad health.

Suu Kyi, along with detained vice-chairman Tin Oo, was not present at the meeting, while chairman Aung Shwe and secretary U Lwin were too ill to attend.

The opposition leader however sent a message "expressing her thanks and congratulations on successful formation of the CEC", according to Dr Win Naing, who was included in the expansion.

"Today we began a discussion on formation of the central committee," he said. "We will do all we can to collect opinions from regional party members and give them a chance to pick out new members based on criteria set by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

According to Win Naing, candidates must be "loyal to the party, resourceful, and constantly engaged in the democratic struggle" in Burma.

The comment follows criticism from lower-ranking regional NLD members that they were not consulted on the selection process for the new CEC members.

Party spokesperson Khin Maung Swe said last week that the reformation needed to be undertaken quickly, and that a more inclusive process will be undertaken in the future.

Win Naing added that the party would "issue a statement soon and notify our regional members".

The expansion was the first major change to the party since it formed in 1988, although Suu Kyi has long called for transformation within the ranks.

The party's mobility has been severely hindered by Suu Kyi's detention, which is now in its fourteenth year, and ongoing harassment by the military junta.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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