Constitution must be revised before election: opposition leaders

by Salai Pi Pi
Monday, 26 October 2009 21:23

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Prominent Burmese opposition leaders say the junta’s planned 2010 elections cannot be inclusive and broad-based unless the 2008 Constitution is first revised.

Win Tin, a veteran politician and senior member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, said in order to make the 2010 election inclusive the 2008 Constitution must be amended, as the document, which he asserts enshrines military-rule, will essentially bar all dissidents including Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the poll.

“The constitution does not allow any political prisoners their electoral rights, and this will also include Aung San Suu Kyi,” Win Tin clarified. “Therefore, it is necessary that the constitution is revised before the election.”

Win Tin’s comments came in response to a statement from the Burmese Prime Minister at the 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, concluded on Sunday.

The Burmese Premier, Thein Sein, reportedly ensured leaders of the 10-member ASEAN bloc meeting in Thailand that the 2010 elections would be free, fair and inclusive of all stakeholders.

Thein Sein also commented that Aung San Suu Kyi could be allowed to play a role in national reconciliation, further hinting that the regime may relax restrictions on the detained opposition leader if she maintains a “good attitude.” “He briefed us on some of the dialogue that is taking place and he feels optimistic that she can contribute to the process of national reconciliation,” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters.

“We welcomed the affirmation by the Prime Minister of Myanmar [Burma] that the general elections to be held in 2010 would be conducted in a free, fair and inclusive manner,” Abhisit continued in his statement.

While cautiously welcoming Thein Sein’s comments, Win Tin noted the Nobel Peace Laureate has been maintaining a soft stance towards the regime and urging national reconciliation for the last twenty years.

Meanwhile, Aye Thar Aung, Secretary of the Committee Representing Peoples’ Parliament (CRPP), a coalition of political parties that won the 1990 election, on Monday echoed similar views to those of Win Tin, primarily that the junta’s planned election next year cannot be inclusive unless the constitution, which he called “forcibly endorsed in 2008”, is revised.

“Without revising the 2008 Constitution, the election will not be able to yield anything good for the people of Burma,” Aye Thar Aung told Mizzima.

Aye Thar Aung added that Burma’s generals only want Aung San Suu Kyi to contribute for their national reconciliation plan but are reluctant to change their overall stance in fear of losing power.

“Changes have to come from both sides. They [the junta] also must change their stance towards her,” he elaborated.

He said the only way to build a genuine national reconciliation is to hold a tripartite dialogue between the Burmese generals, Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders of the ethnic groups.

Following the U.S. announcement of its new policy on Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi last month offered junta leader Senior General Than Shwe her willingness to cooperate in the easing of sanctions.

In response, Than Shwe allowed her and her party meetings with western diplomats.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the past 19 years in detention, was sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest in August after an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside home, spending two nights on the premises.

The NLD won a landslide victory in the 1990 election, but the regime refused to honor the result and instead drew up a seven-step roadmap to democracy. According to the roadmap, the proposed 2010 election is the fifth step.

In a statement at the end of the ASEAN summit in Thailand, leaders of the 16 countries encouraged Burma to ensure the implementation of their seven-step roadmap and to restore democracy in the country.

However, Win Tin emphasized the “NLD will not contest the upcoming election if the regime does not revise the constitution.” The NLD has also consistently called on the junta to release all political prisoners, in addition to mandating free and fair elections, before they consider participating in any poll.

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