Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party the National League for Democracy has entered parliament, despite a disagreement over the oath of office to which she and her party yielded on the use of the current word “safeguard” instead of their demand for use of the word “respect”.
This entry to the parliament has sparked different opinions among people. Reporter Maung Rammar from Narinjara has contacted several political leaders from Arakan State to provide comments, as Arakan is one of the most politically active states in Burma. The leaders commented as follows:
U Aye Thar Aung – senior politician and General Secretary of the Arakan League for Democracy.
“I would like to assert first that it is not possible to build a truly democratic state without amending the 2008 constitution, even though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has entered parliament. During the earlier discussions on the issue of party registration and competition in the by-elections, it was noted that it is important to amend the 2008 constitution. Without amending this constitution, Burma won’t be a democratic state. There would be no national reconciliation. Civil war can not be stopped. Therefore, everyone sees that amending the 2008 constitution is the ultimate goal. They might encounter difficulties in amending the constitution inside parliament. Therefore, if amendment of the 2008 constitution is to be accomplished, they have to seek assistance from the forces outside parliament, and the general public. Let along the amendment of constitution, even this small issue of the oath of office wording can not be amended, the amendment of the constitution will face several difficulties; so I analyze. Thus, when in parliament, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has more than 40, USDP has a great number of them, plus 25% military MPs, therefore, it is not easy to change the parliament and they will surely face difficulties. Therefore, rather than inside parliament, I prefer that forces outside parliament only will help.”
Dr. Aye Maung – President of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party
“Burmese politics will change. We must be instrumental in changing. We say when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi arrives that our forces are supplemented. We feel we are warm with her presence. We welcome her. When we think about the future of Burma, we have to analyze the struggles of the NLD since 1988 as we recognize that the NLD is a force behind national reconciliation and general peace in the country.
One more think is that is is difficult to change ‘table 4’, as everyone knows. The NLD has also recognized that several difficulties will have to be face in the amendment of the constitution. But I believe that the NLD has planned for 2015 and made a move right now. Change will need time and time will also create people who will want change. I believe that after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been in office one or two years, one section after another of constitutional amendments will be considered according to the will of the people. There are also many people who want change. Even the USDP has the same in mind.”
Dr. Khin Maung – President of the National United Party of Arakan
“The opposition groups receive some sort of force because Daw Suu is in parliament. At the same time, I see that the peoples’ voices are more powerful inside parliament. On the other hand, she did not get what she wanted when she asked for the oath of office edit. So, even when this small word can not be replaced, there would be more difficulties in changing more important things such as laws. In addition, when we look at the parliament, 25% of the MPs are military men, who can not be easily persuaded to side with you. And the rule is also that to change the constitution, she needs to get more than a 75% majority vote. So, it’s not a very easy task for her. No matter what, she came to the parliament over the request of the opposition groups, also because her will to fight for the people from inside parliament, and her will to change the constitution. Because of all these factors, she entered parliament by reciting ‘safeguarding’ the constitution. In any event, I think her entry to the parliament might be a hope for the opposition and the people.”
Ashin U Thiha – President of the Rakhine Sangha Union
“There is a hint of change and development right now, no matter what. However, change will not come easily. Because they don’t have a political will to change the 2008 constitution. The NLD is going to fight in the space that is presented and thus, there might be some changes. Change is coming but might not be significant. As there are 25% military MPs in the parliament, they will conduct affairs according to the USDP’s policies. The government will not relax their policies and procedures. NLD has to fight, but even if they do, they won’t get it easy.”
Daw Saw Mra Raza Lin – President of the Rakhine Women’s Union
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s entry to the parliament is an encouragement for the ethnic parties and their MPs. That’s why they persuaded Daw Aung San Suu Kyi patiently to enter the parliament. Is she going to stay as an opposition leader in parliament of is she going to accept a post appointed by the U Thein Sein government? We have to wait and see. Out of one of these choices will speak of the benefits for political change and her leadership role.
She did not accept the 2008 constitution, and thus, did not compete in the 2010 election. I guess that they have vision that the constitution will be changed with majority choice, that’s why perhaps they competed in the 2011 election. We are still wondering to what extent they will be able to materialize their basic election missions, such as rule of law, domestic peace, and constitutional amendment. I would also like to comment on the oath of office dispute. I do not think that the two words ‘safeguard’ and ‘respect’ are that different. I clearly see that competing in the election is basically following the rules of the constitution. Mere entry into the parliament of Aung San Suu Kyi will not equate political change. It is not an accomplishment to just wait and rely on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi alone either. We need people to surround her and to support her. All must also try their best in the meantime.”