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HomeUncategorizedA new constitution for a blossoming political society

A new constitution for a blossoming political society

Aung Htoo

Oct 6, 2008 (DVB), The last demand set out in the National League for Democracy's 27 September statement was the right to freedom of organisation, existence and movement for political parties.

It is obvious that such a demand is intended not only for the benefit of the NLD but also for all existing political parties in Burma. It is understood that there will be no stability and development in a country without the free existence and organisation of political parties and civic organisations and strong movements. The NLD takes this issue very seriously that's why it included this demand in its statement.

The NLD's demand is for all political parties and organisations. It is relevant to every ethnic group and region in the whole country.

If you look at all the countries in the world, you will observe different political systems in different countries. However, you will notice that stable and developed countries have powerful political parties and civic organisations and strong social movements. There is no country in the world that has long-lasting stability and development because of the capacity and leadership of a handful of military generals.

If you look at the background to the military coups in Burma's history, you will learn that the army staged a coup in 1962 because of the lack of power and ineffective efforts of political parties then. The army had the opportunity to take over power when the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League, a popular front organisation that played a key role in Burma's independence movement, split into 'the Clean' and 'the Stable' factions. After the general elections in 1960, the then election winning party, the Union Party, split again into 'the U-Bo' and 'the Masters' groups.

In his history book 'Burma in the Darkness', author Win Tint Htun mentions that U Nu, the then chairperson of the Union Party Caretaker Committee, highlighted the internal disputes and divisions within the party at the UP's National Conference held in Kabaraye Hill on 27 January 1962 as follows:

"How is everything with you, Ko Shwe U-Bo and Ko Shwe Masters? Are you not tired from fighting each other? The fight between U-Bo and Masters is a very good one to watch. If I may use boxing language, they both use feet, heels, kneels, elbows, fists, heads, chins, finger nails and everything they have to defeat each other. It is a serious fight. I think Ko Shwe U-Bo and Ko Shwe Masters have become quite exhausted. Aren't you tired yet?"

In India, a contemporary of Burma's in its independence struggle during the British colonial era, the political parties that were established even before independence are still in existence and powerful. Due to the wide influence of political parties and civic organisations, the very strong Indian army has never been able to take over the country's power. There is no prospect of a military coup in India in the near future.

Nowadays, the Communist Party of Burma is the only political party left in Burma which was actively involved in the independence movement. However, it can no longer operate above ground for a number of reasons. Other political forces from that time such as the We Burmans Association, Burma's Freedom Bloc, the People's Revolutionary Party and the Socialist Party do not exist any more.

As for the Burma Socialist Programme Party founded after the military coup in 1962, it was merely a superficial grouping formed by military dictators to cling on to power and was thus consigned to the trash bin of history during the 1988 '8888' people's uprising.

The NLD came into existence in a country with political party background outlined above. Considered a civic party, the NLD has become a political party that has received enormous support from the nation since the military coup in 1962. As is the nature of a political party, the NLD may have had mistakes in its strategy. However, we have to acknowledge that it has a rightful political claim.

Why can we conclude the NLD has a rightful political claim?

Firstly, the legitimacy of the result of the 1990 May elections was accepted by not only the people of Burma and the international community but also the State Peace and Development Council.

The military regime has never said that the 1990 May elections result is illegitimate. The NLD has been constantly calling for the convening of the parliament based on that result.

Secondly, the NLD pointed out that the procedure of drafting the 2008 state constitution was wrong. It also pointed that the military regime had used different methods such as threats, intimidations, lies, deceptions and power abuses in order to adopt the constitution by force.

Thirdly, the NLD strongly rejects and states that it cannot accept the SPDC-sponsored magic show, the election, to be held in 2010.

In the midst of the NLD's struggling for existence based on its righteous political stance amid incredible hardships and severe restrictions, key party leaders U Win Tin, U Khin Maung Swe and Dr Than Nyein were released from prison.

There is a saying in Burmese that "a boy comes for the good", a metaphor for someone who can bring hope for the future to others. As for those three people, we have to say that it is the older people who have come for the good. Why?

These three leaders are very old now. U Win Tin is almost 80. They had to spend many years in prison and their health deteriorated throughout their prison terms. They could be rearrested and thrown into jail at any time if they say the wrong thing. Former army captain Win Htein, who was granted freedom on the same day these three were freed, was rearrested the next day.

Nonetheless, within a few days of being released from prison U Win Tin, U Khin Maung Swe and Dr Than Nyein announced that they would take assignments and continue serving the NLD.

People tend to say that appreciation and honour should be given only after someone has died as human beings can have many different faces. But these three people should be publicly honoured as democracy heroes even before they die for their announcement that they would steadfastly continue serving the NLD amidst severe restrictions alone.

I hope there will be 30, 300 or more democracy heroes in the NLD like these three people.

There is no shortcut to bring freedom, peace, justice and development to individual and to society as a whole. The only possible way to ensure them is by allowing the formation of strong and powerful political parties and civic organisations. To reach that end, party and organisation building should become a focal point and the persons who build these organisations should become key players.

U Win Tin, a very old man who values the NLD's rightful political stance and will steadfastly continue serving the NLD, cannot be traded with a million youth who don't understand any stance and work for the dictators. Political parties and civic organisations with rightful stances can be strong only if there are people like U Win Tin in these organisations.

We will be able to build a country that enjoys long-lasting freedom, peace and development only if there are a variety of political parties and civic organisations actively playing their roles like the various types of flowers are blooming in a garden.

The present SPDC constitution only allows political parties if their aims include non-disintegration of the union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty. It is certain that the growth of genuine political parties and civic organisations will be terminated under such a constitution.

Therefore, the only thing we have to do is to get rid of the SPDC constitution packed with nonsensical articles and to bring about the emergence of a new constitution that permits the right for political parties and civic organisations to enjoy their freedom of organisation, existence and movement. Beautiful flowers will then blossom.

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