Amidst the cacophonous clamours for democracy and federalism, numerous political parties pullulated like mushrooms in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, thanks to the democratic-minded Union Election Commission and the egocentric politicos. Just a few weeks ago, the number of officially registered political parties reached the astounding figure of 80 (GNLM Daily, 27.6.2015 issue, p.1). It has jumped to 88 (NEWS WATCH Weekly, v.10, no.12, 28.7.2015, p. 15). The number is still growing with the approach of imminent General Elections. Perversely we could, at least, flaunt our opulence of political parties despite our national poverty and the LDC status of our country. Certainly no other country in the world could match the plenitude of our political parties.
Do we need that many political parties for this country? No? Definitely not! A careful look at our closest and contiguous neighbouring democratic countries, like India, Bangladesh and Thailand will do. In all those countries, the number of national political parties can be counted on one hand meaning not more than 5. Democracy thrives there (except in Thailand for the time being). There is your answer, candid and clear.
Out of 88 political parties, 52 are those of our ethnic brethren and 36 belong to Bamars, the nationals from the 7 Regions within the Union. In sharp contrast, India, the biggest democracy in Asia, with comparable, if not more, diverse ethnic groups to Myanmar, has not more than 5 national political parties. We Bamars are equally culpable as much as our ethnic brethren in imbecilically inflating the number of political parties.
Normally our ethnic brethren should have one or two political parties at most in each of their respective States and Autonomies to cherish democracy. With the present system of franchise and voting by individual townships in this country, it is impractical and impolitic to form political parties for each and every ethnic groups. The multitude of political parties would rather confuse and disappoint the simple-minded ethnic voters. For obvious reasons, such small and feeble ethnic political parties will eventually evanesce into thin air.
Now we have here, three major political parties, namely, the National Unity Party (NUP), the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) with their political objectives explicitly expressed by their party appellations. All we (Bamars and those of our interested ethnic brethren) have to do is simply join any of these three political parties in accordance with our individual political propensities or stay independent enjoying our own democratic and human rights instead of instituting additional and rather superfluous new political parties. Most of these new political parties are, no doubt, based on the personal ambition and self-interest.
There might be good reasons for the existence of some splinter political parties, irreconcilably severed from a certain major political party. Even so, the responsible party members concerned (from both sides) should have worked out for a mutually comfortable compromise that would have kept the parent political party still intact and united.
There is no sense in having either ANLD or SNLD since NLD itself is a national-level political party like the other two rival political parties. In all fairness and sincerity, if our Arakanese (Rakhine) and Shan ethnic brethren love democracy so much, they should simply join the NLD. Similarly those who prefer the national unity should join the NUP and those who are keen for the solidarity and development of the Union should go into the USDP. It is as simple as that. We never heard of either the Tamil Congress Party or the Bengali Congress Party in India. It shows that our Indian neighbours are politically more mature than us. They do know what a nation means and what an ethnic group is. I fervently hope that our countrymen soon realise, understand and accept the political status difference between a nation and an ethnic group.
In this respect, the Swiss people and the citizens of the United States of America (USA) or the Americans are far superior to us. Both peoples have genuine love for and unswerving loyalty to their respective homelands. In Switzerland (Schweiz, Suisse or Svizzera), there are 3 distinct ethnic groups, German, French and Italian, and 4 native languages, German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romansh. English is also spoken and understood by many. The wonderful thing about Swiss people is their admirable national pride without losing their individual ethnic identities. Likewise, American people with their diverse (aboriginal, European, African and Asian) racial backgrounds have the same spirit of patriotism. How good it would be if most of our countrymen (not necessarily all of us) would emulate Swiss and American peoples both in spirit as well as in action.
The plethora of political parties that we now have in this country irrefutably indicates our national disunity, whatever those prodemocracy and human rights zealots may claim. It is not only pernicious but also perilous to our national unity cause. Moreover, it could also generate the people’s loss of faith and confidence in the political parties.
Speaking of unity, whether we like to admit it or not, the Armed Forces or the Tatmadaw (with its sturdy wings of army, navy and air force) is the only mention worthy organisation that could still boast unity and solidarity with pride. Except for those unscrupulous communist, Kayin and Kachin army deserters at one time in the past, the Tatmadaw has stood united and solid ever since. It has, in fact, ably withstood the test of time and tribulations defending this country and protecting the people on several occasions.
Confronting and antagonising the Tatmadaw did not pay. Only counter-productive consequences resulted as we have seen so far. Instead of wasting our time with such futile and otiose operations, we the civilians, should first build up our own unity among ourselves (including our ethnic brethren) by any possible means, nullifying the old grudges, hatreds, animosities, mistrusts and suspicions once and for all. Only then, we could get rid of the self-destructive internecine conflicts and restore national reconciliation.
Once we could build up this monolithic unity, solidarity and peace among ourselves, we would convince the current military leaders that we, the civilians could also hold our country together, of course, with the strong support of the Tatmadaw. We would then earn their respect and confidence that would eventually lead to the achievement of the national unity and the development of the drastic changes in the political scenarios much to our liking.
This national unity is the first base and absolutely indispensable in building a strong, well-developed and modern Myanmar Nation that we all want. When we achieve the national unity, solidarity and peace, we could very well do the nation building with dedication, determination and deep love for our homeland and the people, just like the way our ASEAN friends, the Vietnamese are endeavouring.
In the absence of a truly able and versatile national leader like our late beloved Bogyoke Aung San, the nonpareil, we all have to trust and rely on the efficient collective leadership manned by our country’s best citizens, regardless of sex, race and religious faith, in politics and the 3 independent organs of State Power, namely, Legislature (Parliament), Judiciary and Administration (Government). In fact, it is high time that we all (the People and the Tatmadaw) pool our human resources and talents together in building a strong, prosperous and modern Nation of Myanmars.
To me, the name Myanmar Nation is the best fit for our people historically, geopolitically and internationally. If our ethnic brethren find it not to their liking, they are at liberty to substitute it with a better name. This new name, however, should not only connote historical, geopolitical and international spheres of recognition, but also be acceptable to the majority of our indigenous ethnic groups.
“The plethora of political parties that we now have in this country irrefutably indicates our national disunity, whatever those prodemocracy and human rights zealots may claim”
Federalism, getting so popular in this country, is really good for diverse ethnic groups of people living together since time immemorial with true communal spirit, and desirable if it could be made viable. But I have some misgivings about its viability after having seen the inevitable disintegrations and collapses of those long standing socialist federal states, such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) and Czechoslovakia (CSR). In those countries, the narrow ethnic and provincial nationalism or rather chauvinism prevailed over that of the nation. I have the impression that similar sentiments currently prevail among some of leaders of our ethnic groups. If so, the viability of federalism in Myanmar still remains uncertain.
Federalism as practised in the world today is also ever threatened by the spectre of secessionism rooted in the ethnic chauvinism, political differences or economic inequalities among the sister states and provinces. That was why even in those apparently viable federal countries like Canada and Australia, there had been strong secessionistic tendencies and movements in the past. In Canada, it was the French-speaking Quebec Province and in Australia, the State of Western Australia. In the former, it was due to both ethnic and economic issues, and in the latter, economic superiority.
Very recently we have seen how Scotland attempted to secede from the United Kingdom (UK). In USA also, just a few months ago, there has been resurgence of anti-federal movements like the senseless slaughter of unarmed American Blacks by a lone white gunman (most probably a member of the notorious Ku Klux Klan) and flying of a confederate flag (symbol of the secessionistic nationalism of the rebellious Southern States during the American Civil War) at the State House in overt defiance to the Federal Government in Washington, DC, USA. Both incidents occurred in the State of South Carolina (one of the quondam Rebel Southern States). These are, doubtless, the unmistakable signs of cracks and incipient failures in the once seemingly indestructible edifices of federalism in the western federal countries.
No wonder, the Tatmadaw feels so concerned about the potential disintegration of the Union, and thus turns dead set against the federalism which may or may not guarantee the non-disintegration of the Land of Ours. Personally I would like to see my country stays integrated and intact, and the map of Myanmar unchanged. It is, in fact, the wish of most of us.
So, here are some crucial questions for those zealous federalists in this country. Are we all ready to bury the hatchet? Do we all love our fellow-countrymen as our own kith and kin, and wish to live together? Do we all love this Land of Ours as our own birthplace and homeland? Are we all proud of being the citizens of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar as most Americans feel about their homeland, the USA? Are we all very keen to build up the dignified Myanmar Nation? Do we all believe and accept that a nation is composed of several ethnic groups? Are we all willing to give priority to our nationhood over racial heritages without losing our ethnic identities like the Swiss Nation? Are we all or most of us determined to bring forth the countrywide national unity, solidarity and peace, come hell or high water?
Of course, these questions are what my American (US) friends would say, 64 dollar questions, imperative and imponderable. When you and we all or most of us could answer these questions positively and affirmatively both in spirit and in action, then that would be the day we could have a true and viable federal state as the Federal Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
Last but not the least, we all know and should uphold that ever-truthful maxim,
“United we stand
Divided we fall”
with our indomitable will and impressive work.