Viewpoint: Daw Aung San Suu K

In 1948, when Burma became independent, we established a parliamentary democracy. And, at that time, we could say that we were one of the foremost countries in Asia to have adopted parliamentary democracy. However, the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Time and chance happen to us all. Time and chance happened to our country and we lost our parliamentary democratic system.

But with commitment, drive and perseverance we have once again started out on the road to establishing a parliamentary democracy that truly reflects the will of the Burmese people. We wish to make this parliament a vibrant one. In my experience, parliamentarians across the world – even when divided by party or ideology – are united by a remarkable vibrancy of spirit. Perhaps this vibrancy is invigorated by an awareness of the great responsibility that their constituents have bestowed upon them, and by a desire to live up to this responsibility to the best of their ability. Our new government was formed at the end of March 2016, following the general election in November 2015. To mark six months in office, I would like to take this opportunity to very briefly outline some of our main areas of work.

The first priority of our new government is to bring about national reconciliation and harmony between all parts of our society. One month ago, we launched the 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference in Naypyidaw as a step towards establishing a genuine federal democratic union. Building on the work of the previous administration, we aim to bring an end to the decades of conflict that have blighted our country since independence and to secure the lasting peace that our people have longed for.

We are under no illusions as to the complexity of the challenge that lies ahead. We have many diverse ethnic groups and a legacy of mistrust. Yet through political negotiations held in the spirit of cooperation and compromise, I believe that we can realise the collective aspiration of our people for a peaceful, secure and prosperous future.

We are also striving to bring harmony and understanding between the different communities in Rakhine State. The situation in Rakhine is complex and is the subject of close attention and concern outside our borders, in the ASEAN region and beyond. Since forming the new government, we have taken measures to begin to address these challenges. I chair the Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development in Rakhine: overseeing the tasks of ensuring stability and rule of law, scrutinising immigration and verifying citizenship, and implementing socio-economic development. We have also formed an Advisory Commission chaired by diplomat Kofi Annan to help us to identify and comprehensively address these challenges.

We are working to build understanding, harmony and trust between communities while standing firm against prejudice, intolerance and extremism. In doing so, we ask for the constructive support of our regional neighbours. Progress in every field will not be possible overnight, but we are determined to persevere and to bring about positive change in Rakhine State and other areas of our country affected by conflict. We are also striving to bring about sustainable economic development for the benefit of all people in Myanmar. Our country is fortunate to be endowed with varied natural resources, a young population eager to learn and a location between the largest markets of the world. Yet for reasons of history, our country has never realised its economic potential.

Today, through the hard work of our government and people, and the support and collaboration of our friends in this region, we have an unprecedented opportunity to build a better future. We have launched an economic policy that aims to support national reconciliation, alleviate poverty, develop much-needed infrastructure, encourage responsible foreign investment and create jobs. We will seek to learn from what has worked well in other countries as we pursue this approach. The economic development of Myanmar will, I believe, support the growing prosperity of our region as a whole and contribute to the future success of those in the ASEAN community.

At the same time, we are pursuing our international obligations in line with our intention to be a responsible and active member of the world community. Myanmar has recently ratified the UN Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and we are currently concluding domestic procedures to enable more ratifications such as the ASEAN Agreement on Privileges and Immunities; the Protocol to the ASEAN Charter on Dispute Settlement Mechanisms; and the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. In doing so, the constructive and active cooperation between our executive and legislative branches has been invaluable.

The continued goodwill and support of the people of the ASEAN region as we pursue all these endeavours will be a great source of strength and encouragement to us. Today our world is more connected than ever, and no country or people can or should stand alone. The opportunities and challenges that we face cannot be realised or overcome without international cooperation. This cooperation must be across all the pillars of government: executive, judicial and, of course, legislative. The ASEAN Inter-Parlimentary Assembly, therefore, has a very important role to play. The breadth of subjects on the Assembly’s agenda for the coming days stands as a testament to this. Among the matters being discussed are strengthening cybersecurity; protecting marine resources; mitigating the impacts of climate change; supporting small and medium-sized enterprises; and defending against the Zika virus.

All these are issues that affect our citizens directly and where we have a duty to work together, in a spirit of democratic collaboration, to find effective and progressive solutions.

Before I conclude, I will draw again on my closing remarks from the UN General Assembly that I had the privilege of attending. Myanmar has known too well the cost of conflict and strife. We have seen how anger, greed, fear and ignorance can corrupt human nature and a community as a whole. Therefore, I would appeal to all of you to stand up against anger, hatred, fear and ignorance wherever you may encounter it, and to instead seek the path of compassion, loving kindness, happiness and the good fortune of others.

I would like to see our ASEAN community stand as an example to others around the world as a regional community where giving is truly more valued than receiving, and where fundamental human rights and human dignity are at the heart of all our policies and actions.

And may I remind all legislatures that there is no higher honour than being an elected representative of the people: to fulfil our responsibilities to them, to stand for them against the challenges of our world and to be able to say at the end of our term in office that we have truly done our duty by our people and by ourselves.

The above excerpt was adapted from a speech delivered by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw, Myanmar at the opening ceremony of the 37th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in September 2016.