Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairperson, National League for Democracy (NLD), on democracy in Myanmar: Viewpoint

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairperson, National League for Democracy (NLD)

A democratic system is based on the wishes, influence and power of the people, and can succeed only if the people are actively involved. The NLD guarantees to respect and follow the will of the people, as expressed through open, transparent, free and fair elections. The NLD was founded in 1988 with the aim of establishing a genuine democratic federal union that would protect human rights. In striving to reach this objective, we have held firmly to the principles of non-violence, national reconciliation, harmony and non-retribution. Over 27 years we have never abandoned these principles. Today we continue to work to bring about peaceful change in our country.

The NLD contested the 1990 elections in accordance with our wish to work together with all of the people of our country to establish a democratic federal union using only methods that would harm neither the country nor the people. Although the NLD received the overwhelming support of the people, we did not have the opportunity to carry out our responsibilities for the country. But the 1990 election clearly showed the strength of the people’s desire for democracy, and this sustained the NLD and the cause of democracy in our country over subsequent years. We will never forget the debt of gratitude that we owe to the electorate. The NLD’s participation in the 2012 by-elections was also an effort to realise, to the best of our abilities, our hopes for the country, peacefully and within the framework of the law. The NLD laid down three main policy objectives: rule of law, internal peace and constitutional amendment. Thanks to the trust and support of the people, we won 43 of the 44 constituencies that we contested.

I believe that our people understand that in a parliament comprising over 600 members, the capability of a group of only just over 40 MPs is limited. As a result of the NLD’s efforts, I believe that there is now a much greater understanding among our people of why it is necessary to amend the constitution for the benefit of democracy and the union. However, to be able to effectively implement the policy objectives of our 2012 by-election, we need to hold the responsibility and authority of government.

Laws must be just, and must enable all people to live in security. Laws that should be revoked must be revoked, those that should be amended must be amended, and new laws must be enacted where necessary. Only the executive and the judiciary have the authority and powers to ensure that legislation is effective. Only a government can effectively implement rule of law. The ability to form a government is therefore the most important step towards the successful establishment of rule of law.

Prior to the 2012 by-elections, the NLD laid out the three steps required to end internal conflict and bring about peace. The first step is to achieve a ceasefire across the country. The second step is to hold political dialogue and negotiations. The third step is a constitution that guarantees the fundamental Panglong principles, including equality and self-determination. At this time, people are happily anticipating the possibility that relevant organisations may soon be able to sign an agreement that can lead to a nationwide ceasefire. It is very important that this ceasefire is a sustainable and durable agreement founded on mutual understanding, trust and respect.

Once a ceasefire has been signed it will be essential to implement the second and third steps, which will lay the foundations of the sustainable long-term peace required for the emergence of a democratic union. These two latter steps must be taken at the same time. The government that emerges from the November 2015 general elections will be responsible for carrying out the second step of political dialogue. We stand ready to carry out this responsibility.

Despite the many dangers and difficulties the NLD has faced, we have never let go of our objective of establishing a democratic federal union. Since 2010 the NLD has called for “a second Panglong conference”, by which we mean a political dialogue founded on peace and the Panglong spirit, which is the belief that we can succeed only through the cooperation of all ethnic groups. Today, NLD candidates are contesting the elections in every state and region in order to be able to form a central government that can bring about a genuine union and represent union spirit. Establishing a genuine democratic federal union will only be possible if the central government itself truly adheres to democratic standards, and takes a balanced approach to working with the state and regional governments. The NLD asks the people to give us the opportunity to use our country’s diversity as a strength, and to strive to bring about unity.

Political dialogue may take a long time. Reaching an agreement about the future of our country should not be rushed. Careful negotiations, discussions and compromises will be required. Yet it is also very important that the negotiations do not carry on indefinitely, and that an agreement be implemented as quickly as possible. For this reason, the third step of constitutional amendment must be taken at the same time as the second step of political dialogue.

Our people know that the Tatmadaw (government army) has the most important role with regard to constitutional change, and that the views of the NLD and the Tatmadaw regarding constitutional change are not precisely aligned. However, in our wish for a stable and bright future for our democratic federal union, I believe that the NLD and the Tatmadaw do not differ in any way. Our people want to see the Tatmadaw, which was originally established by General Aung San together with the people, as an organisation loved by the people and working only for their benefit. It is a deeply felt desire of the people that they and the Tatmadaw should be of one mind on the many issues that will determine our country’s future, including amending the constitution and respecting the public will as expressed in elections. The NLD wants the Tatmadaw to be a modern, developed organisation that adheres to democratic standards, that is respected in the world, that defends the peace, security and independence of our country and our people. We wish to dispel any mistrust that may exist between the NLD and the Tatmadaw, and to cooperate through mutual respect and trust for the benefit of the union and democracy. We also want to work together to amend the constitution in accordance with the wishes of the people, without harming the stability of the country or the people’s sense of security.

Some have questioned whether a political party that has struggled in opposition for over 27 years is qualified to carry out the responsibilities of government. I can say with confidence that we are. To properly carry out a responsibility, one must know two things: what one should not do, and what one should do. As for what not to do, we can take many lessons from Burma’s recent history. As for what we should do, we know this because we learn from the people.

When we ask for the people’s support, we are asking for the people’s trust. It is the people who must decide which party to trust and support. We have always been respectful and open in our relations with the people. The NLD firmly vows to maintain this approach in the future; our dignity and existence is based on fulfilling to the best of our ability the responsibilities contested to us by the people.

In the November 2015 elections, I would like the people to give the NLD the opportunity to carry out the responsibilities of government. If given this opportunity, we will remain firmly committed to the principles of national reconciliation, harmony and non-retribution. We will not view anyone as an enemy. We will extend a welcome to other actors to work with us for the development of a democratic union. And we will respect the decision of the people.

Excerpt from a speech given September 21, 2015.

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