As the elections date has been announced by Union Election Commission (UEC), hectic moment for political parties has begun. Politic within political parties and ruling elite has become more visible to the general public. Party members start vying to have their names in the candidate roster, and discontentment and internal power struggle within the party members are gaining momentum. This very moment draws the attention from many diplomats, international community, and political speculators, and there arisen manifold questions that no one might have proper answer to what would happen next.
The present Australian Ambassador in his recent visit to Technical Advisory Team (TAT) of Kachin Independence Organization Office in Myitkyina asked what the KIO and Kachin would say on the forth coming Myanmar’s general elections due in November, 2015. He went on to say that he has the impression that the country is making real progress in democratic changes after 2010. This is indeed very good question and many people will also have the same question, but this question definitely bears different answers. I have one to this. Change simply is not a matter, and that change might have some positive things with regard to change in uniform, change in economic reform, political reform with new political culture, and freeing of many dissidents favouring many political enthusiasts to have playing field, and finally benefiting from partial lifting of western imposed economic sanction. Many have the opinion that this change is like in Burmese word “eik pauk neh phaa kauk” (collecting frogs into a bag with holes). Change that the Myanmar government is making is change that what they believe in, not change that people believe in. It does not represent the will of people. All the changes made so far are the changes to what extend they want to make, and to that extend their grip on power is not shaken.
View of KIO on this question I assume would be that they will not make any comment and cause any hindrance to the electioneering process with the hope that the election is gate way to democracy. Repetitive practice of elections will help build good governance; government that respects rule of law, and more stable government under a sound political system with improved representation that respect and abide the democratic value after all. Once such democratic government is in place, then KIO would find more convenient to have genuine talk with such government that acknowledge political and civil rights of the Kachin people and other ethnic people alike. What KIO is seeking is not just good political representation, not just regime change at the central level, not just economic reform or else, but rather change that promise for the fullest realization of greater political rights; the rights that promise the Kachins to decide and shape their future. If the representation is to justify, what kind of political representation we will talk about – representations in Chinese system, American system, British or Indian? According to a research report telecasted on BBC world News in recent month, representation system in Chinese government is far better than that of American and British where the former is communist and latters are democratic governments.
President Barack Obama in his recent speech at African Union said, “Democracy is not just conducting of formal elections, and I don’t know why some people wants to remain in power for such a long time”. It is very much true in our country too. I am not old enough to witness the parliamentary elections of post-independence era of the past that was supposed base on the principles enshrined in the historic Panglong Agreement that paved the way for country’s total freedom from British rule.
Former head of National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) Naing Hong Sar made a very clear and simple remark in comparison of the situation of the pre-independence era and the situation today at the first meeting between NCCT leaders and Union Peace Making-work Committee delegates in November 4, 2013 in Myitkyina. The situation is like when one is in hunger, he thought of devouring chunks of food to his full, but when the stomach is full he forgets the feeling of the time when he was hungry. The country was in strong desire for gaining independence, the Burmese leaders assured ethnic leaders of granting greater political rights and made numerous promises and that were never realized, and thus Burmese government have long forgotten how they felt in the time when craving for independence from British.
So is the situation today where political rights of ethnic people have been curtailed, and Panglong tready have just become reminiscent of the pre-independence Burma, and country is in bad shape. The country has been ruled by successive brutal regimes, and drawn country into world’s least developed country list, and the education system crippled, people in power hoarded country’s wealth for personal benefit, rule of law has been just utopia for ordinary people.
Based on the experiences gained from the informal elections observation mission conducted locally during 2010 general elections with the forty five trained youth covering total sixteen townships across Kachin state and northern Shan state with the reasons that elections would bring forth at least breathing space for people compare to the military dictatorship past. We believed then that country will change and situation is improved, and thus paving a way for more inclusiveness, reconciliation, and problem solving initiatives to more than half century old ethnic strife seeking for ‘just-political settlement’.
When we looked at the findings from the informal election monitoring mission, it was found that the elections themselves are problematic ranging from legal frame work, pre-elections scenario, elections day scenario, and but little good record in post-elections period as the power transfer process underwent smoothly from military to quasi-civilian body. Bestowing of veto power inside the house to the twenty five percent un-elected parliamentary seats for military, and advance voting procedure is indeed problematic in itself. And hence this condition poses as a daunting task to drive country to more democratic change, and finding fair and long lasting solution to country’s ethnic demands have become almost impossible. It was noticed that just months ahead of the last 2010 general elections, the then military government issued ultimatum to KIO to convert its armed wing KIA into Border Guard Force (BGF) to be under government’s border affair ministry instead of offering olive branch looking for peace and political solution through dialogue and negotiation. This ultimatum from government might have meant for other ethnic ceasefire groups as well. KIO in deed had rightly rejected the ultimatum with firm stance believing that bowing to accept the ultimatum from government is not going to solve long cherished dream of greater political autonomy for the Kachin people.
Should we still expect something out of nothing from the forth coming elections under the infamous 2008 constitution and existing laws that do not represent the will of the ethnic people, and do not fovour to having solution to the ethnic grievances? What can be assumed is that the elections under the cloak of 2008 constitution will not bring forth the genuine peace and changes to the country representing the will of the people in the whole country. The election rather would give more lavage power to the government and the tamadaw [Burma Army] to exert more pressure on ethnic armed organizations.
The only best wishes from Kachinland to the forth coming elections would be that the situation in the pre and post 2015 elections does not repeat again as of the decorated post 2010 infamous general elections when brutal conflict resumed causing displacement of tens of thousands of civilian from their homes and villages bringing in untold miseries to the common people, many of our kith and kin had to loss their life, and creating huge humanitarian crisis in Kachin state and northern Shan state that costs hundreds of millions of dollar.
About the Author:
La Rip is a Laiza-based political analyst, and has been working in community development projects in Kachin and northern Shan State since early 2000. He was a coordinator for Kachin IDPs humanitarian assistance network, RANIR, based along the Sino-Mynamar border area for more than two years since 2011. At the moment he is a part of “Technical Advisory Team (TAT)” of the KIO as a civilian representative. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kachinland news