Written by U Ne Oo on 1999-05-20
Recently, there were reports of three MPs complaining about the NLD leadership's approach towards dialogue with the junta. The NLD leadership branded thesip branded these MPs as the "lackeys" of government. These three MPs reportedly send a letter to NLD CEC, with the signature of 25 other MPs under detention. The CEC of NLD(CRPP) in response have issued statements 23, 25(4/99).
Since this three MPs were just released from the government detention, there is small possibility of the MIS orchestrating the letter. More likely scenario is these MPs made their own initiative to write the letter to the CEC of NLD while they were in detention and, then MIS let them off the hook. From what From what I have read from CRPP statements, it's clear that MIS, at least, has facilitated the three MPs in collecting more signature from their colleagues.
ACCOMMODATING OPPOSING VIEWS
In a democratic organisation, it is nothing wrong for people to have different views and to express them in a legitimate way. The responsibility of democratic leadership is to evaluate the political contents of those views and accommodate appropriately. On one hand, the leadership of NLD have the right not to disclose every details of their plan for negotiation to the subordinate members. However, it is appropriate to make the public known regarding general direction of the movement. As in any political movement, the leadership can then drag along the rest of their members and supporters.
In the opposition movements, the leadership must be even more carefully listen to the dissenting views of colleagues and taken into consideration whenever possible. Former opposition members should equally be treated, whenever possible, simply because of their previous commitments. Sure, some democracy supporters become frustrated or dispirited or simply couldn't cope with events over the time. However, these people and their views to some extent are still deserving of our careful consideration. Unlike pro-government organisation, such as USDA, the unity of opposition groups such as NLD are not based upon rewards and privileges. To maintain the unity of an opposition group, the leadership, perhaps, could only reward their own members with dignity, respect and honor. Leadership carefully listening to their views and taken into consideration is to be considered as part of this process.
ANYLISING THE CONTENT OF THE COMPLAINT
From what we have read from newsthreads (NB: I still have not had the original letter of these three MPs), there are two main point raised in that letter: (a) general lack of progress by the movement (b) the "inflexibility" of NLD-CEC over the negotiation. Following is my assessment of the letter:
(A) GENERAL LACK OF PROGRESS BY THE MOVEMENT
"On whoever the responsibility rests, it is evident...that the NLD has not been able to solve even a segment of the problems faced by the people."(Three MPs: AFP, 12-May-99)"
On this note, we -the prodemocracy campaigners- have to recognise we haven't been able to provide improvement to the situation of the people inside Burma. This point is hardly to be seen, or be taken, as criticism to the NLD leadership. It is the truth the pro-democracy forces cannot practically deliver goodness to Burmese people people and we all know about the obstacles. No one should overlook SPDC/SLORC is making obstacles on our every initiative, such as operation of independent and impartial humanitarian organisations, to improve situation inside Burma.
Surely, everyone doing politics or striving for democracy would like to see and show results. But in politics, things tends to move slowly and, even for those who can wield enormous power, reaching to tangible results are few and far between. Unfortunately, the criticism for lack of progress isogress is unavoidable for almost any leadership in this field. Even activists at the grassroots level cannot escape from such criticism. We have often been ridiculed or, at best, been ignored by unsympathetic and cynic people. However, in the best tradition of opposition and activists, we must continue to march forward with our plans.
MOVEMENT'S PRESSURE ON JUNTA
Although Burma democracy movement is still unable to improve everyday lives of the people inside Burma, it has been quite successful in limiting power of military junta. For example, the junta no longer have the power to send its delegation or foreign minister to EU-ASEAN meetings; it cannot obtain necessary loan from IMF, World Bank and ADB. Junta is totally isolated and is diminishing in the eyes of international community. SPDC/SLORC can no longer call-upon the supports particularly of Japan and Germany as the leadership of those countries change their stance on Burma. The commercial firms from South Korea have also halted their operation since last year. Even China, after the China, after the period of Asian Financial Crisis, appear to have restrained their commercial activities within Burma.
Then again, the junta still have the "power" to freely arrest opposition members. I would rather term such power as "evil-power" because it rooted in the junta's lawlessness. This kind of exercise in junta's power can be likened to criminal activities such as child-abuse: a totally unfair treatment to the weak and defenseless. We are quite frustrated on this matter because people from outside could do very little to ittle to help release those MPs.
(B) INFLEXIBILITY OF BOTH SIDES
"to have a dialogue, both the Government and the NLD must show flexibility and the willingness to compromise." ...... " NLD's decision to convene Parliament on its own has itself become a big obstacle to the holding of a dialogue" (Three MPs, ASAHI, 28-APR-99)
It is quite true both sides still need to show some flexibility to achieve negotiation. From SPDC/SLORC part, they must not continue avoiding the negotiation withiation with NLD. From the NLD's part, it still does not clearly state it wants to share power with ruling junta. The possible model for sharing power has been put forward since early 1998. Although NLD-CEC have constantly call for a dialogue in a vague terms, they have not mention anywhere about sharing power. By changing this stance and stating clear objective to share power, the NLD can gain political benifits.
Firstly, all other NLD-MPs, outside observers as well as SPDC/SLORC do not simply know where the CEC of NLD stands onstands on the issue of power sharing. It may as well have been the case that the CEC of NLD want to settle this matter only when the negotiation starts. However, unless the CEC of NLD say anything about this, who is to know ? The CEC of NLD should make known of their stand on power sharing issue. If such step isn't taken, NLD intention to compromise is unclear and that the NLD leadership will continue to be criticised as being inflexible by fellow MPs. Such NLD putting their position on the table even before negotiation will not nel not necessarily be interpreted as a sign of weakness, but to be viewed as transparency of democratic leadership.
Secondly, by clearly stating its position to share power, the NLD will be able to enhance international credibility. This is because in international politics, either be an opposition or a government, the one who making initiatives to promote peace, stability and (politically) just outcome will win more support.
NEGOTIABLE AND NON-NEGOTIABLES
Upon stating its willingness to share power with junta, NLD sunta, NLD should rejoin constitution drafting process, under the supervision of Commission on Human Rights, and continue with its call to convene parliament. SPDC/SLORC, on the other hand, should clearly understand about the difference between "convening parliament" and "declaring parallel government". "Forming parallel government" is not one and the same thing as "convening parliament".
The CEC of NLD insisting on substantive dialogue with junta leaders (Gen Khin Nyunt, Gen Than Shwe) must be commended. This is because, in thee, in the past, the SPDC/SLORC used the meeting with NLD leaders as propaganda tool. For example, on the eve of visiting UN Envoy or if there are signs of international community hardening mood, such meeting is used to soften international criticism. Therefore, NLD should not ventured into such suggestions as "low-level talks" etc. The best way, I believe, is NLD putting their compromise right on the table and move forward with substantive negotiation.
We cannot blame NLD's call to convene parliament for current political impacal impasse. As recent summary from Burma Info(India) show, these MPs have been calling to convene a parliament since the time they were elected. On the one hand, the SPDC/SLORC should not demand the dismantaling of CRPP. These are simply the non-negotiable issues.
Since the September crackdown on NLD and especially after the death of Michael Aris, there has been the lack of friendly atmosphere to foster a dialogue. I believe it is nothing wrong for NLD leadership to begin to "break the ice" with military leaders. (The CEC of NLD should perheps invite SPDC/SLORC to a lunch; or send some goodwill gifts to General Khin Nyunt and General Than Shwe etc.) There are various initiatives that the NLD leaders can take in this regards. I think, some of these MPs probably means the lack of such innovative approach towards dialogue as the inflexibility of NLD leadership. In this respect, the NLD leadership may have to take the "Gandhian Way" of humbleness combined with gentle persistence.
From the NLD(CRPP) leaders biography, we can see that these peoee that these people have once served their country, with their distinguisned career, for many years. Many of them even have experience in the independence struggle. We have no doubt about these leaders will go through thick and thin of the democracy struggle.
SPDC/SLORC have been requesting non-humanitarian, economic aid from international financial institutions such as ADB, World Bank and IMF. It insists also that there must be no string attached. However, any international economic aid will require apprequire approval from US Congress and US Government. The USA is not likely to pass on any economic aid without approval of Burmese democrats. Junta also knows for themselves that Japanese Government is also not in favour of delivering economics assistance at this stage (for example, we have the information that the junta's delegation to Japan last January were thoroughly humiliated at the meeting with Japanese House Councillors). The only way to move forward for both side is to make compromise on political front.
HUMANITARIAN ASTARIAN ASSISTANCE
There is no dispute by anyone, SPDC/SLORC or NLD or international observers, about the need for humanitarian assistance to the people inside Burma. It is also possible to deliver such assistance independent of the military and political opposition. The main problem regarding with humanitarian aid is those humanitarian organisations to get the unhindered access, of which it can be arranged by the approval of UN Security Council. Our policy chase at the United Nations on this humanitarian front is still continul continuing. However, the SPDC/SLORC leaders can voluntarily give such access, as a good-will gesture, to the international community.
With best regards, U Ne Oo.
AFP: BURMA JUNTA WANTS NO STRINGS ATTACHED TO AID
14 May, 1999
RANGOON - Burma will not accept international aid if it has political strings attached, such as a dialogue with the prodemocracy opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a junta official said.
Junta spokesman Lt Col Hla Min said international agencrnational agencies including the World Bank had not officially offered Burma non-humanitarian aid in exchange for reconciliation, but he understood such ideas were being considered.
"They [the World Bank] have not officially come out with anything like that, but by reading through the media we have a feeling that there is a carrot with a hidden stick," he said late on Wednesday.
He was referring to reports last year that the World Bank was considering offering Rangoon US$1 billion in development aid in a trade-off for talks beor talks between the junta and the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The NLD won the 1990 elections with a landslide but has never been allowed to form a government and has been locked in a bitter political feud with the military authorities ever since.
Diplomats here said the aid-for-talks idea had been floated last year but was now "in limbo". They said no formal offer had been made and the one billion dollar figure was speculation.
"There are some people, particularly in the United States, who wotes, who won't have anything to do with this government at all," one source said.
Burma's economy has been stripped bare by regional economic crisis and Western sanctions, with foreign investment well down on the levels of the early 1990s when the junta opened up the country following years of diplomatic isolation.
HIa Min said help was not welcome if it was conditional on changes to the country's internal affairs.
"We will never take anything if there are strings attached," he said.
"It's much better to stand oer to stand on your own feet if you believe that the assistance is not sincere."
AFP: OPPOSITION DIVISION EXPOSED IN BURMA
Date: 17:32 12-May-99
News Analysis by Stephen Collinson
BANGKOK, May 12 AFP -- Dissident MPs have exposed splits in Burma's opposition but analysts say years of distrust have so poisoned political life that their call for talks with the junta has little chance of success.
They call by a small group of renegade MPs of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy(NLD) evoked a fu) evoked a furious reaction from the party leadership.
The MPs, elected in the 1990 NLD election landslide which the junta has refused to recognise, were nothing but "lackeys of military intelligence," the NLD charged.
The MPs had colluded with the government to sow disunity in the party, it said.
The ferocity of the attack surprised many observers and diplomats in Rangoon, who said it further highlighted divisions in an opposition badly disabled by a junta crackdown.
A Rangoon-based diplomat told AFP it was imposP it was impossible to say if the call for talks was made at the MPs' own volition, as they insist, or was the product of intense pressure by intelligence agents.
"It is very difficult to analyse the siutation, it's hard to know if the initiative of the dissidents is genuine, if they are popular," said the diplomat.
HOwever, many in the diplomatic community in Rangoon are sceptical as the group of MPs linked to the appeal, which was sent to the leadership tow weeks ago, had recently been in detention, he said.
What is cl What is clear is that not all those who count themselves as opponents of the military government agree with the NLD's hardline approach.
In a statement obtained by AFP, one of the three instigators of the letter, NLD MP Than Tun, denied conspiring with the government and implicitly questioned party tactics.
"I was elected by the people not because I would nod and acquiese to every matter but rather that I would strive for attainment of democracy with the least hardship for the people within the shortest period," he wrote.he wrote.
"It is evident that the country is now under a more rigid governing system than the former BSPP governing system" which ruled under dictator Ne Win from 1962 to 1988, he added.
"On whoever the responsibility rests, it is evident...that the NLD has not been able to solve even a segment of the problems faced by the people."
Diplomats say dissent has been slowly guilding within the NLD for some time.
"There is truly a problem, and it has not just emerged overnight," said one, who added that the leadershithe leadership's furious reaciton to the challenge appeared to indicate a new, harsher attitude.
Another diplomat also detected a more autocratic line coming from the party's top echelons toward dissent.
"Any political organisation has to have some discussion. It's common knowledge that ther ahve been some difference of opinion within the NLD for a long time," he told an AFP reporter in Rangoon.
"But the Burmese have a long tradition of autocratic rule from the top and the NLD is a Burmese organisation led by Burmese." Burmese."
Few analysts, including some who think the NLD's refusal to deal with the military government is futile, believe that Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has lost support in the country.
"The government is doing its best to dcrack it (the NLD) up," said the second diplomat.
"Nevertheless, I don't think there is any doubt that she (Aung SAn Suu Kyi) is immensely popular."
Even had party leaders been convinced by the appeal, Burma's fractured political climate is unlikely to permit even low-level talks soon, talks soon, said another analyst.
"There is no room between the two (NLD and the junta) for a different approacy, for independent dialogue--there is complete stalemate."
The government says it is always ready to speak to the NLD, but refuses to sit down with Aung San Suu Kyi, whom it regards as a puppet of the West. NLD leaders say dialogue is unthinkable without her.
The case of the dissident MPs, led by a core group of Tin Tun Maung, Than Tun and Kyi Win, is not helped by the fact that the letter was released soon afased soon afdter they were released from a government "guest house."
Analysts say there have been many cases during the government's crackdown on the NLD in recent months of members being forced to sign repudiations of support drawn up by intelligence agents.
In addition, Than Tun is understood to have been expelled from the NLD about two years ago for refusing to sign a mandate giving the central committee authority to acto on behalf of the party.
Sources in Burma say that only around 90 out of an original total of 382tal of 382 NLD MPs elected in 1990 are still claiming affiliation to the party.
The rest have either died, are in jail or have distanced themselves from teh party, they say.
(Extract from a Japanese language article appearing in the ASAHI newspaper of 28 April 1999 made by Mr. Ryotsuke ONO, Bangkok, 27, April, 1999)