Actually like an avenging avalanche with icy indifference, the NLD juggernaut driven by people’s power, bulldozed its way into Myanma political arena in November 2015 handing a crushing defeat to all of its opponents much to the surprise of the many. It was raally the initial victory for the masses of Myanmar in their strenuous struggle for democracy. Now it is left to the New Government and the people to develop the country and build the nation with proper democratic reforms and moral rearmament.
Unfortunately, quite a number of vocal and valiant parliamentarians, most of them true people’s representatives, were swept away in this maelstrom of virtually monoparty election victory. Also there are less people’s representatives elected from our ethnic brethren this time. As a nonpartisan citizen of the Union, I find it truly regrettable.
This is one of the iniquitous instances of modern version of democracy in action. Democracy in its pristine form, as practised in the city states of ancient Greece, was pure and simple. It was simply “a rule by the people for the people”. True people’s representatives manned the city state councils managing and manipulating quotidian affairs that directly concerned the citizens’ welfare. Those city state councillors had neither political party affiliation and nor party line to toe at the expense of citizens’ interests. How good it must have been for everybody enjoying the benefits of democracy in those days!
Now this good system of “a rule by the people for the people” succinctly designated as “democracy” has deplorably degenerated into a medley of partisan contentions, political party infightings, pullulation of politicos, election intrigues, vote cheatings, divisive rivalries, sectarian schisms, all sorts of discords and dissensions among the citizens that inevitably leads to national disunity in countries like ours.
As a rule, political parties prioritise the election victory in their party mandates. It is natural and inculpable. But when it comes to prioritising the interests, those of the people, the voters should come first.
Big political parties always aim for an all-out win in every election, so that any one of them could dominate both houses of Parliament (the Legislature) and form one-party government. It has become the tradition and trend of the modern democracy, visible in all democratic countries everywhere.
In this respect, the Americans (the US citizens) have a lot of political savvy. They elect their congressmen and congresswomen and senators (and senatresses?) in such a manner that neither of the two big political parties, Republican (GOP) and Democratic, could dominate both Houses of the Legislature. So there is always “Check and Balance” to rein in the malpractices of the Government ( the Executive Branch) by the true people’s representatives. It is indeed one good present-day democratic tool.
Would we be able to maintain this beneficial “Check and Balance” routine now in Myanmar? It remains to be seen. Mainly it depends on each and every parliamentarians. They should never forget that they are not only party members (excepting independents) but also people’s respresentatives. As such, they should fulfil their bound duties (i.e. to serve their respective voters) at all times. They should also cherish their singular loyality to their voters, the people. “Voters first, Parties second” should be their unshakable credo and motto.
Serendipity hit me when I stumbled on this very interesting and relevant news item in the GNLM Daily, dated 21 November 2015 on page 13. Allow me to reproduce part of it verbatim as follows:
“The US House of Respresentatives defying a veto threat by President Barack Obama, overwhelmingly passed Republican-backed legislation on Thursday to suspend Obama’s programme to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year and then intensify the process of screening.
The measure quickly drafted this week following the Islamic State attacks in Paris on Friday that killed 129 people, was approved on a vote of 259-137, with 47 of Obama’s 188 fellow Democrats breaking with the White House to support it. It could require that high level officials ─ the FBI Director, the Director of National Intelligence and Homeland Security Secretary — verify that each Syrian refugee poses no security risk.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the the bill would pause the programme the White House announced in September to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. He said it was important to act quickly“ when our national security is at stake”.
In another Myanmar language journal (TOMORROW News Journal, 24.XI.2015, p.34) I found that the Governors of 31 States in the USA ( including Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Florida and Massachusetts) refuse to accept the admittance of the aforementioned Syrian refugees into their respective States despite their President’s veto threat. Of these 31 State Governors, only one is Republican. How remarkable!
Along with those gutsy House Representatives, I deeply respect the undaunted patriotic spirit of those 47 House Democrats and 31 State Governors (30 Democrats and 1 Republican) who dare to defy their President’s minatory but meaningless veto threat, especially the Democrats who really care more for the national security of their voters rather than toeing the party line like a flock of sheep. Obviously Obama, already committed in this case, is bent on achieving a resplendent global image in humanitarian benevolence risking national security at home. The House Representatives and those State Governors did the right thing. If Obama willfully wields his veto, he would be the loser when so many of his voters took to the streets to demonstrate against his apparently reckless programme and his popularity with his fellow Americans on the skids. He should shed his autocratic attitude down right now.
In fact, Americans and many of us could not forget that maniacal massacre of nearly 3000 unarmed people ( soft targets in the lingo of terrorists) on that ill-fated day of 11 September 2001 in New York. As we all know, this atrocious act was cold-bloodedly perpetrated by those pathetically misguided al Qaeda terrorists who had easy access to enter the USA.
Moreover, when we all know that one of the IS attackers in Paris was a Syrian refugee, it would be abysmally asinine to let those potentially perilous persons to enter the country without super-tight security screenings.Otherwise, it would be just like what we Myanmars used to say: “toting venomous viper in one’s hip-pocket of longyi cincture.”
I take my hat off to those US House Representatives and State Govenors who love their own people more than their political parties. How daring and democratic these Americans are! For Myanmar, we need people’s representatives just like those intrepid and patriotic US politicians.
We also have a similar national security threat with those (at least some) illegal Bangali (Bangladeshi) infiltrators in the Rakhine State and southern part of the Chin State. The Paris mishap and US national security menace should be serious security alerts to those human rights enthusiasts and the New Government, and of course, security forces in this country to take proper precautions in dealing with those potential crazy militants trained for a variety of terrorist atrocities.
The proper protective measure is to effectively seal off the porous Bangladeshi-Myanmar and Indo-Myanmar land borders as one careful and considerate Nepalese (?) observer has so conscientiously pointed out very recently (GNLM Daily, 24.XI.2015, p.8) by bilateral government level negotiations and strong reinforcement of border security forces with modern security aid appurtenances. It would not only subdue, if not crush the cross-border insurgencies, but also prevent the stealthy entry of undesirable illegal infiltrators.
I am told that there are 7 geologists and 5 mining engineers, neither too old nor too young, among the elected. Of the 5 mining engineers, I know 3 of them very well. They are good and capable men. One of them, a Kayin national, is a well-known staunch defender of this country’s exotic environments, picturesque scenic spots, fragile ecological systems, wonderful biodiversity, River Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) and her sister Thanlwin (Salween). So I am much heartened about the fate of our beloved Mother Ayeyarwady. I am convinced that he would do his utmost to terminate that maleficent Myitson Dam Project with the concerted cooperation of same-minded fellow parliamentarians.
The protection and preservation of nature’s beauties and ecological equilibrium are also very important. With his facile pen, my friend Bohmu Khin Maung Myint, quondam Deputy GM from MPT, is a prolific writer. His articles printed in this highly esteemed newspaper are readable and rewarding! What he has written under the caption, “Who is to blame, the Nature or the Human Beings” (GNLM Daily, 2.XI. 2015, p-9)is quite a good article, true and tragic. His opinions are incontrovertible. I completely agree with him. Like he mentioned, one day, the human habitat would be destroyed by man himself through his own uncontrolled avarice, boundless bellicosity and abysmal ignorance, if he does not change his wicked ways in time.
Thanks to the environmentalists, ecologists, nature lovers, the Greens and conscientious people like Bohmu Khin Maung Myint who are out to defend the Earth and our no longer happy and endangered habitat at all costs. It is indeed one of the good points of modern democracy.
I humbly hope that the New Government would have time and funds to address these environmental impact issues promptly. The first on the list is rampant deforestation that causes the immense loss of sylvan resources, soil erosion, silting of waterways and flash floods. Next comes the superfluous dam constructions. Dams, especially the big ones, imperil nearby human settlements with ever-threatening dam deluge and they could, big or small, trigger anthropogenic earthquakes in geologically unstable areas. Recently a Brazilian village named Bento Rodrigues has been destroyed by waste (mine tailings) dam deluge as a 20 metre (65 foot) high flood swiftly swept through it within minutes with one person dead and 13 wounded. The villagers have just about 25 minutes to escape from this manmade disaster (GNLM Daily, 8.XI. 2015, p-12)
I also hope that those geologists and mining engineers could counsel and convince their Party Leader the true value or the real worth of resources or rather mineral resources. It takes tens to hundreds of million years to form a mineral or an ore deposit, either gold or lead-zinc-silver-copper or tin-tungsten. The same thing goes for coal, oil (petroleum) and gas (natural gas), gemstone and jade deposits. Besides, these mineral deposits are exhaustible assets. Once mined or taken out, they are irretrievably gone or exhausted, unlike yearly crops like rice, wheat, peas and pulses. So mere cash is no match for such a naturally hard-to-get and highly valuable mineral commodity.
In the case of Monywa copper deposits (Sabedaung, Kyesin Taung and LetpadaungTaung), we have, so far, only these copper deposits (copper only or straight copper) well-developed and ready for mining. If we cannot get any copper metal out of our own deposits, just because of investment share ratio problems, how outrageously unfair and unjust it would be for all us! Copper, still a strategic metal in industry, more so for this country, in fact, worth more than even a fair amount of money from the viewpoint of its availability.
Both the elected geologists and mining engineers could very well assist the New Government in revamping the Mines Ministry, if deemed necessary, and boosting the mining industry with their professional experience and knowledge. The revenue accrued from the mining and sales of minerals ( metallic and non-metallic), fossil fuels (oil and gas), jade (jadeite) and gemstones could underpin the national economy to some extent.
The other day, just in a casual confab with a young Japanese resource geologist, a Ph.D. graduate from the University of Tasmania (UTAS), Australia, I learnt this. Now our ASEAN friends, Laotians, Vietnamese, Thais and Indonesians, especially the last one, are getting wise and impose a lot of restrictions on the exploitation of their mineral resources by both domestic and foreign mining companies. Thus the majority of the western mining investors are contemplating to converge on Myanmar and try their luck timing perfectly with the expected change of political scenario here. Our Myanmar mining men (both from the government and the private sector) should be smart enough (like Indonesians, for instance) to receive them and do business with them profitably for the good of the country as well.
I often wonder why we could not get united like our fellow Southeast Asians, the Vietnamese people. After all, we all are fellow countrymen living together in this lovely Land of Ours since time immemorial. Can we not really bury the hatchet and cease our mutually imperilling internecine fightings, forgiving the bygone grievances and forgetting the past opinion conflicts with overriding fraternal love for our fellow Union citizens?
Throughout my over 40 year professional career, I have been to various parts of this country. Despite the language barrier, I have met, befriended and even lived for some time with many of the hill-dwelling ethnic brethren including Akhars, Chins, Danus, Inthars, Kachins, Kayahs, Kayins, Kokangs, Mons, Nagas, Palaungs, Pa-os (Taungthus, Rakhines, Shans, Taungyos and Was. They, the common people, both urbanites and villagers, were very friendly, helpful, hospitable, solicitous, and warm-hearted and received me with open arms like one of their own relatives. I would say that they have, whether knowingly or by instinct, Union Spirit in their hearts. But I am not so sure about some of their current leaders and those of the armed groups.
Nagas even have a legend that claims that there were originally 10 brothers living in this Land of Ours. Bamar was the eldest, and Naga, the youngest. While I was in Kunlon years ago, I learnt this from one army battalion commander whose name escaped from my senile memory.
It is high time that we all see the light at the end of the tunnel and strive for the urgently needed national unity and nation building through national reconciliation and countrywide peace. What we must do is to establish a mutual trust and understanding among the Three Groups or Big Three, the Bamars, the Ethnic Brethren and the Tatmadaw (the Armed Forces) with fraternal love and good will.
It is, of course, easier said than done. But if we all have a will, there would be a way. With deep desire, dedication and determination, we would surely win. There is no doubt about it. We don’t have to consult astrologers, fortunetellers, predictors, soothsayers or vaticinators.
My ardent wish is that my country stays intact and my people united. Fraternal love and fellow countryman feeling should bind us together and consolidate our national unity transcending race and religion. Not a whit of ill will and hatred should fester us. We all should love one another and live happily together. It should be the true spirit of federalism. Maybe I am expecting too much or daydreaming and optimistic.
As an afterthought, it occurs in my mind, whether we should switch to that once proposed but rejected PR System from the current practice of “winner takes all” mode of election not only to give chance to small political parties, but also promote numerically more participation of true ethnic people’s representatives in the parliaments.
The best thing, however, is in future, the voters should get wise up like Americans to elect the true blue people’s representatives in such a way that no big political party could have a majority control in both Houses of the Legislature to prevent one-party dictatorship and obviate the victimisation of the voters by unscrupulous political parties. This is the best way to beat the cheats in the hodiernal world of perfidious politics. My sincere apologies to my readers, if I sound cynical.
Author: U Than Htay, a career geologist with 36 year active service and 11 years as an able Advisor, is a retired Deputy Director General from the Department of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration (DGSE), Ministry of Mines.