walk on, indeed

April 5, 2005 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

eventhough i’m raving about ghost-writing cory’s speech, i was pissed that the IPU wouldn’t even consider Burma on its plate. but just when i thought last saturday’s conference was a dud, chuchay or teddyboy or maybe julie comes up with this.

Don’t give up now

The exclusion of the Myanmar democracy issue from the formal agenda of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s 112th general assembly in Manila should not discourage those who have taken up the cause of the Burmese people since the 1990 elections that were dishonored by the military junta.

The exclusion was understandable since the agenda was drawn up months earlier, and under IPU rules, only one emergency issue is allowed — the tsunami risk faced by many countries and how lawmakers can put in place mechanisms to prevent a repeat of the massive destruction and loss of lives last December.

The Myanmar issue, on the other hand, compels attention because Myanmar is scheduled to chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2006. The thought has horrified prodemocracy groups, and their reaction was exemplified by Luis Ayala, secretary general of Socialist International, at last Saturday’s meeting of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus in Manila. How, he wondered, can democracies allow an authoritarian regime and an intransigent violator of human rights to chair Asean, the most significant regional grouping in this part of the world?

The caucus, coinciding with the launch of the Philippine Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar, drew more than 200 delegates from all continents — a remarkable display of support for the cause of the Burmese people, led by the detained Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. If only for this solid show of concern among parliamentarians from various regions and political persuasions (the Philippine caucus represented all political parties here, including the perennial adversaries), there should be no let-up in the campaign for Myanmar’s full and authentic democratization. The full range of support from Philippine groups evoked such pride in the two top leaders of Congress, Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Jose de Venecia, that they made sure Akbayan Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales introduced each Filipino parliamentarian with emphasis on the political affiliation.

Very rarely, indeed, is such a fortuitous mix of events achieved. The stakes are highest for Myanmar at this time, because an overwhelming clamor for the junta to mend its ways or risk the supreme insult of losing the chairmanship of Asean can only happen this year, the eve of its assumption. Such high stakes, coupled with the unprecedented unanimity reached among political forces from around the world, and the continuing pressure from the United Nations, to compel the junta to reform, may yet win freedom for Suu Kyi. She has been detained since August last year after her party was abducted on the way to a township office of her National League of Democracy just outside Rangoon.

The pressure on the junta is so strong that, even if the Myanmar issue were excluded from the main agenda, IPU’s human rights committee will still take it up, opening the way for a report or recommendation to be forwarded to plenary just the same. And Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., whose privilege speech last Dec. 1 triggered the foreign relations committee resolution demanding Suu Kyi’s freedom and democratic reforms as conditions for Myanmar’s chairmanship of Asean, expects no less than a favorable result from IPU.

In a free-wheeling interview with award-winning journalist John Pilger in the early ’90s, Suu Kyi expressed hope that after 40 years of authoritarian rule “our time will come.” It has been 15 years since her NLD party swept free elections, but she was unable to sit. She remains undaunted despite a series of seven detentions by house arrest.

If the unprecedented consensus around the world, as manifested in Saturday’s caucus in Manila, were an indication, there could be reason for this brave, noble woman to keep hoping. Those who have embraced her people’s cause should not give up now.

*sigh* there’s still hope. 🙂

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