The mishaps or failure during National League for Democracy’s (NLD) team tour to meet the ethnic political parties (EPPs) in Mon and Kayah states might have been compensated by the smooth roll out in Shan State, so much so that NLD General Secretary (3) and Magwe Region Chief Minister Dr Aung Moe Nyo enthusiastically said: “The EPPs have made known their unique feelings to us. But in Shan State there are (many) ethnic armed organizations and many ethnic groups. It is bigger than Magwe Region two to three times. Besides, political party like Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) has historical tradition that won a lot of seats in the elections. This party coming to meet us and discussing with mutual trust can be taken as an achievement which blanketed the (failure) trip of Mon and Kayah states,” according to VOA report of January 16.
SNLD General Secretary Sai Leik regarding the meeting with NLD team in Taunggyi at its party office on January 15 told Shan News that they have explained the party’s position three crucial issues.
The first is national unity, which the NLD is in the position to do it, so far as the SNLD is concerned, due to its leaders’ matured age and leadership, political situation (clout) and political achievement (landslide victory in November elections).
“ That’s why in order to achieve national unity, we energetically pushed them to undertake the issue,” said Sai Leik.
“The second is national reconciliation. When talking about national unity, national reconciliation with the ethnic nationalities is very important,” he said.
“Otherwise, the NLD and non-Bamar ethnic nationalities will become far apart. If the icy relationship will continue just like during the last five years (of NLD tenure) and civil war is to go on, there is no way to achieve positive result by political negotiation.”
“Because of this we’re worried on what have happened (recently) in Mon and Kayah states. We told the NLD just like that. We said that the NLD should try to restart discussion and if necessary, we are willing to help,” said Sai Leik.
He further said that NLD should meet all the 48 EPPs, to which it has sent out overture letters and also to talk to Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement-Signatory-ethnic armed organizations (NCA-S- EAOs) and bilateral ceasefire agreement signed EAOs, SNLD will do everything in its power to help, if needed.
“And concerning the third point, we explain the SNLD’s position and policies. Before the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) was formed around 1989-90, there was an agreement between the NLD and our non-Bamar ethnic groups. That is, democracy and federalism need to be implemented at the same time. Some people from the NLD are talking that democracy has to be successful first and considered federalism later, which we cannot accept. This is not appropriate and cannot be successful,” said Sai Leik.
“Besides in trying to shape and implement (federal) union we cannot just have the form only but the essence of it will have to be taken into account at the same time. The NLD should guarantee and try to implement the essence,” added the SNLD general secretary.
He said as a people’s government the NLD is voted in to amend the 2008 constitution and establish a true federal union.
“If it doesn’t, it will be disloyal to the people. So, it has to be loyal to the people and try to amend the constitution,” he said.
Adding: “ Another point is that the work of building a federal union does not have to be a show of words, but a pragmatic effort in establishing it.”
Doubts and paternalistic attitude
The SNLD Vice-Chairman Sai Nyunt Lwin said the NLD team has come to the meeting with only ears and no mouths, meaning that the gathering was just not conducive enough, might not be entirely true, as Dr Aung Moe Nyo said: “The SNLD discussion I think is broad-minded as it encompass the whole union. They didn’t only care for their party but also offer to help with the meeting with Kayah and Mon parties which were unable to meet with the NLD. If they’re needed to be a go-between the will try and wanted it to be successful through good intention and Metta. A very good prospect for the country. When we know that this isn’t only looking at the self-interest but for the benefit of (whole) union, we’re tremendously happy,” according to the VOA report of January 16.
When asked what Sai Leik would like to suggest for the future in order to have a smooth sailing with the EPPs, he replied: “Rather than rushing it will be more conducive to take times using informal meetings. For the moment the NLD is dealing with the EPPs using the mode of big-brother-younger-brother relationship. So equality in discussion, without choice of venue meeting as the main consideration, which would lead to friendlier, closer relationship is the one message we were able to relay exactly to the NLD.”
“Changes are needed starting with conceptual mindset. With an attitude of I’ve the upper hand, I’m the one who has been elected by the people with full rights national unity will never be successful. The NLD should give in to small matters and change its mindset,” said Sai Leik.
Past NLD failures
NLD way of approaching national reconciliation approach during the about to end legislature period of 2016-2021 were picking individual ethnic candidates from EPPs. For example U Aye Thar Aung of ANP was picked as deputy speaker in Amotha Hluttaw and U Kyaw Lwin (Ramree-1) was installed as state minister for agriculture, livestock, mining and forestry. While the former, a senior member of the ANP survived the purge, the latter was kicked out of the party.
“Mon National Party vice chair Nai Thet Lwin became Union minister for ethnic affairs and lawmaker Dr Min Kyi Win (Mudon-2) was appointed Mon State minister for environmental conservation. These appointments caused divisions within the MNP, and to avoid a repeat when the party merged with the All Mon Region Democracy Party ahead of the 2020 election to form the Mon Unity Party, the new entity put in place a rule that no members would be allowed to hold discussions with other parties without head office approval,” writes Frontier Myanmar in its recent analysis of the political situation of the country.
SNLD General Secretary Sai Leik in his interview with the Shan News, regarding the constitutional amendment, of which many laws which need only 51 percent approval in the parliament, said: “ For example, in the case of the State Legislative Schedule 2, the NLD has failed to enact legislation to implement state legislation from 2015 of paragraph 1 to 8, which was decided by the Hluttaw since 2015.”
“This is only one example from many in the last five years. This led to the accusation of NLD not paying earnest attention to decentralization,” added Sai Leik to make his point clear.
To sum up, SNLD has touched on the duty of NLD to forge national unity, reconciliation, including the amendment of the constitution to reflect the people’s desire and aspirations that have voted the party to be the standard bearer in establishing a genuine federal union.
To this end, the NLD would need to be decisive and not drifting along like the past five years as the national unity is now badly needed if the country’s uncertain fate is to be free from civil war and pave way for development and political settlement, within the mold of all stakeholders’ accepted political system.
Heeding to the SNLD suggestion to include all EPPs and constructive talks to embrace all EAOs, NCA signatories and non-signatories alike, will be the sensible way to go. And last but not least, clarification of the military bloc’s doubtfulness on electoral-list irregularities by the Union Election Commission should also be on its agenda, if the transition from “NLD one” to “NLD two” administration is to take place smoothly without glitch.