Protesting Against Burma’s Electoral Laws

The Burmese pro-democracy activists based in India have come to the streets to protest against the recently declared electoral laws by the military rulers of Nay Pie Taw. Nearly two hundred activists gathered at Jantar Mantar of New Delhi on March 17 and demonstrated their anger against the Burmese rulers for its vindictive steps towards the democratic actors in the country.

The set of new election laws declared by State Peace and Development Council has prevented an individual, who served (or serving) a jail term. More to it, that individual must be expelled by a political party to get re-registered before the general election. In reality, the law targets none other than the opposition leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, such that she cannot participate in the polls scheduled later this year.

“The military junta has again made another dreadful assault against the pro-democracy struggle by enacting the so-called laws relating to the election to be held in 2010. The laws are utterly undemocratic and absolutely unfair,” said Dr Tint Swe, an exile Burmese parliamentarian.

suu kyi polls
A cartoon by Nituparna Rajbongshi

In the last general election of Burma in 1990, the Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy won over 70% of seats, but they were denied political power. Rather the elected representatives were subjected to systematic repressions by the junta. Today, most of the NLD leaders are out of the country and many are serving jail term inside Burma.

Meanwhile, a group of Indian parliamentarians from different political parties issued a statement expressing their ‘disapproval of the constitution of 2008 in Burma’ as the genuine peoples’ representatives were not allowed to contribute in the drafting process and the referendum was nothing but a sham.

“The electoral laws (of Burma) enacted on 8th March 2010 are extremely undemocratic. The laws deliberately bar Aung San Suu Kyi and all key political prisoners from participating in the elections,” stated in the statement issued by the Indian Parliamentarians’ Forum for Democracy in Burma on March 17 in New Delhi. The statement added that the forum does not believe the election held under these laws meet any democratic standard.

Asserting that the forthcoming election would not resolve the problems of Burma, the statement signed by Sharad Joshi and Supriya Sule, concluded urging the Burmese junta ‘to release the genuine democratic leaders of Burma and begin dialogue with the legitimate representatives of ethnic groups towards national reconciliation before the polls.

It may mention that the military regime composed the controversial constitution excluding the legitimate representatives of the people and ignoring the legitimate demands of the ethnic peoples of the Union. Under this constitution clause, nearly 25% of parliamentary seats are reserved for the military officers.

Earlier a consultation meeting on 2010 Burma polls in Guwahati on January 30 resolved in urging the international community’s ‘to ensure the release of Suu Kyi and other political Prisoners including media persons and the supporters of democracy movement (in Burma) and allow them to move freely before the election’.

Organized by Burma Centre Delhi and Journalists’ Forum Assam, the meeting also appealed the Indian government ‘to review its policy with the Burmese junta’. The resolution also emphasized for a domestic refugee law in India, such that the pro-democracy Burmese activists can continue their movement for a genuine democratic regime in Burma.

Attending the meeting, Dr Tint Swe, a senior member of National League for Democracy said that the neighboring countries can contribute significantly for logical end of the pro-democracy struggle in Burma.

Talking about the 2008 Burma constitution, Dr Swe asserted that it was prepared by the junta and ‘not accepted by the pro-democracy political parties of Burma’. Hence, the constitution ‘should be reviewed before the election takes place’.

Thin Thin Aung of Women League of Burma commented that the 2010 Burma election would not solve the problems of Burma. Rather, she added, ‘regional instability will continue, refugee flow will go on, narcotic drug and smuggling of arms will persist, human rights violations will remain’ etc.

Speaking to this writer from New Delhi, Ms Thin Thin expressed happiness at the recommendation made by the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights, Tomas Quintana who said that some of these human rights violations in Burma may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the statute of the International Criminal Court.

She concluded saying, “We appeal to the UN Security Council to investigate the responsible generals of Burma right now. We will also be grateful to India and the United Nations Security Council members if that call for an immediate release of Suu Kyi and all political prisoners and a free, fair, inclusive and credible election in Burma.