Wednesday, 8 October 2008

NLD Seeking to Negotiate ‘Democratic Reforms’

The Irrawaddy News

The National League for Democracy (NLD) is seeking to negotiate “democratic reform” with the Burmese generals if they will establish a constitution review committee, a NLD spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“If we get those chances, we will hold bilateral negotiations and go on based on our agreement,” said Nyan Win, an NLD spokesperson. “Our idea is for ‘democratic reform.’ We willingly want to negotiate with them [authorities].”

Other NLD members said that if the military government is willing to review the constitution, the opposition NLD party may be willing to take part in the national elections in 2010.

The junta held a referendum in May on the constitution, which was drafted by its hand-picked delegates. After the referendum, it announced that more than 92 percent of the voters approved the constitution. Critics and opposition groups inside and outside the country called the constitution and referendum a sham.

The constitution guarantees the military continues to dominate the country’s political future by assigning its own representatives seats in the people’s parliament without contesting in elections.

On September 22, the NLD released a statement calling for a review of the constitutional process, calling the draft constitution “one-sided” and lacking the participation of the 1990-elected members of parliament.

Nyan Win did not discuss any details it might propose regarding the constitution. The Burmese authorities have not responded to the request

Some observers said they were pessimistic the junta would review its own constitution.

Cin Sian Thang, the chairman of the Zomi National Congress, said he didn’t think the generals would agree to a review because they are in the middle of their “seven-step road map” to democracy.

“Even if we [ethnic leaders and NLD leaders] didn’t agree with the junta’s road map, they [Burmese authorities] are likely to continue. If they finish their process, the situation in Burma will only worsen,” he said.

The UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari earlier this year also asked the junta to review the constitution but Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan told the envoy in March, “It is impossible to review or rewrite the constitution which was drawn with the participation of delegates from all walks of life.”

Thakin Chan Htun, a veteran Burmese politician in Rangoon, said the general election should be free and fair and the detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi should be allowed to participate.

To be a free and fair election, he said, the junta should first release all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.

All Burmese citizens should be allowed to vote in the multi-party election and the international community, including UN representatives, foreign observers and journalists, should be allowed to freely report on the general election, said Thakin Chan Htun.

The state constitution is step three of the regime’s seven-step “road map.” The fifth-step is the 2010 general election.

On September 25, after releasing a statement calling for a review of the constitution, the NLD was warned by the head of Burma’s police, Brig-Gen Khin Yi, to withdraw the statement. The authorities said it might motivate citizens to undertake activities critical of the military government and undermine the security of the state.

The NLD, the main opposition party in Burma, won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in 1990. However, the current Burmese government, led by Snr-Gen Than Shwe, ignored the election results and refused to transfer power to Suu Kyi’s NLD.

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