October 01, 2016

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Rules-based societies, democracy and the rule of law

In her speech to the opening ceremony of the 37th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said inter alia that ASEAN itself aspired to be a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centred community, that rules-based is extremely important particularly for members of parliaments and that lawmakers cannot be law breakers. As ASEAN aimed at becoming a rules-based community, all members should also become the rules-based societies. In the case of Myanmar, too, it is of paramount importance to build a rules-based society as it is in a period of transition from a quasi-democracy to a perfect democracy in that no military presence in the legislatures as well as in the governments.
Myanmar is needed to be rules-based because a rules-based society is the foundation of any democracy. If we really want to establish a democratic country, we are required to strictly abide by the laws, rules and regulations. It is worth remembering that laws are enacted for the sake of the citizens. However, it is important for the law enforcement agencies not to abuse the laws for their own benefits. As pointed out by the State Counsellor, the lawmakers cannot be law breakers.
In fact, a democratic society is based on the rule of law and also on a high degree of transparency in the government affairs. By law as well as by public moral standards, everybody—from the head of state, head of government, head of cabinet to the newspaper delivery guy on the street, must be treated equally. Nevertheless, this, of course, does not mean that everybody enjoys the same rights and privileges, but it means that whatever rights or entitlements a person has will be respected by the authorities and by the people in general. Equality between the rich and the poor, men and women, young and old should be as close to a reality as in fully democratic countries.
In this juncture, it is worth noting that the rule of law is a system under which the government and its public officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law, and the laws should be clear, publicised, stable and just and are applied evenly. Plus, the laws should protect fundamental rights inclusive of the security of persons and property and certain core human rights.
In addition, the process under which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient. According to the principles of the rule of law, justice shall be delivered by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.


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