4 December, 2020

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Burma Power Transfer Thornier Than Lanka

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The Aung San Suu Kyi– NLD (National League for Democracy) triumph is a big forward step but two inherited problems remain. First, 25% of parliamentary seats are reserved for kaki clad thugs who will also appoint three ministers including defence. It will take time and tactical sagacity, but until the political interference and the power of the army are destroyed, Burma will live in the shadow of a return to brutality and dictatorship. Secondly, a junta imposed piece of junk called a constitution decrees that if your children are foreigners you are debarred from the presidency! Loony chauvinism and dictatorship go hand in hand everywhere!

But there is a third self-inflicted defect. Suu Kyi is no Gandhiji or Mandela; she is silent on the genocide of the Rohingya people in Rakine Province. Burma has 2 million Muslim Rohingyas (4% of the 55 million population). Hundreds of Rohinyas have been killed and 140,000 forced to flee, but the Nobel Laureate has kept silent. Is it because to have spoken against genocide of a minority would have been a vote loser? If this was all, she would be no different from our reviled politicians and bearers of Lanka’s primitive post-independence zeitgeist. Déjà vu for us Lankans!

But this may be more than electoral opportunism. From long before the elections she failed to raise her voice against monk-and-state inspired pogroms. Does she too harbour a chauvinist Burman tilt, induction into British liberalism notwithstanding? This is troubling. How Suu Kyi and her NLD government conduct themselves in the months ahead will tell us more. It goes beyond Rohinyas; the Burman (Buddhist) majority accounts for 70%; Shans (9%) are also Buddhist, half the Karens (7%) are Christians as are the smaller Christian Kachin, and Chin groups. There has been armed conflict of varying intensity of the state with Karen and Shan nationalists in border regions since independence in 1948. There are 130 more ethnic minorities hence ethnic tension goes well beyond the Rohingyas.

SuuKyi.2.Platon.2010Suu Kyi is no Gandhi and no Mandela. In April 1964 at the Rivonia Trial Mandela closed his address with these words: “I have fought against White domination and I have fought against Black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. Black and White stands for all the people; Suu Kyi falls short of this categorical imperative. Gandhi paid the ultimate price for protecting Muslims during the partition riots of late 1947 when a million were killed and 13 million displaced. But for his intervention the carnage in Calcutta and Bengal would have been much worse. Gandhi was killed for shielding a minority; Suu Kyi is silent on Rohinya genocide.

The reasons for silence are known, but not forgivable. Hard-line Buddhist nationalists accuse her of being pro-Muslim and stir up emotions in Rajapaksa-style replays. They hand out pamphlets that warn of a foreign invasion and Buddhism being destroyed. Leaders of the military government (Defence Secretary sic!) appeared at rallies sponsored by the machete wielding Ma Ba Tha, Burma’s BSS, led by shadowy anti-Muslim monk Wirathu. The MBT and the military say the Rohingyas are stateless foreign migrants, though they have lived in Burma for generations like our Upcountry Tamils who too were disenfranchised for more than 30 years. One expects this from the military and Burman-Buddhist chauvinists, but the NLD, to its shame, refused to let a single Muslim contest on the party ticket or to explain why.

Elected to part-power

What next after this landslide victory? The tricky transition of throwing out the old regime will be followed by the trickier matter of putting together a sane and stable alternative. In one way it seems less difficult than Lanka; thanks to a huge parliamentary majority there is no need to rely on reviled and corrupt detritus from the outgoing junta. In theory this debris can be discarded. However, practicality is otherwise. The junta holds armed power and cares not a hoot for the rights of the people or for democracy. Despite wholesale rejection by the people it may baulk at the verdict. In 1990 the junta annulled an NLD victory (60% of votes and 392 of 492 seats). Not power lust alone drives the military, but also the gravy train; corruption and looting by all ranks of the poorly paid army is huge. Even if compelled to countenance an NLD government, formally, the army will still breathe down its neck and endeavour to dictate decisions. Objections will be raised to a constitutional amendment permitting Suu Kyi to take up the presidency.

The electoral arrangements are complex – see box

Burma
The NLD needed two-thirds of all elected seats in both Lower and Upper Houses to smother the entrenched military block and form a government on its own (2/3 of 3/4 is 50%). In fact it secured 75% to 80% of elected seats in both Lower and Upper Houses giving it control of future legislation. The president is chosen by simple majority in a 664-strong (440+224) joint-House called Pyidaungsu Hluttaw where the NLD, obviously, has a majority. But the realities of power make some form of compromise unavoidable; another coup attempt has to be forestalled and the constitution has to be amended. A constitutional amendment requires 75% of the votes in parliament; this gives the military a veto even if every elected member supports an amendment. Hence the loyalties of the military have to be split both to pre-empt coup attempts and to amend the constitution.

One option is to allow the current president Thien Sein, an ex-general who seems flexible on resolving these deadlocks, to continue in office for another year giving time to amend the constitution and reorganise and emasculate the army. Parliament does not sit till January and new president and government take office in March-April, so there is time. There are feeble parallels with Lanka in 2015, for example, political compromises to split the SLFP and going easy in prosecuting old regime scoundrels for corruption, abuse of power, murder and responsibility for war crimes. Does mounting anger at the UNP for unnecessarily bending over backward foreshadow Burma’s future?

How Suu Kyi and the NLD will handle their dilemma is an open question. Their advantage is the titanic size of the electoral victory. The voice of the people is unanimous, if the army tries to annual this mandate it will face an uprising. It will have to precipitate a bloodbath and turn Burma into an international pariah, again. In Burma as in Lanka firm international pressure is vital to forestall such outcomes. Thankfully this is the new normal of the Twenty-first Century. President Putin promised international cooperation and ordered an internal inquiry into allegations of drug use in Russian sports. Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko says he may lay criminal charges and may invite a foreigner to chair the internal inquiry. Contrast this survival motivated snap response to local bigotry and Rajapaksa stupidity in dealing with more serious war-crimes allegations.

At the same time the threat that Suu Kyi and NLD face is graver than in post Rajapaksa Lanka since a hard-nosed army is de facto still in charge. This was not the case in Lanka pre or post 2015. If the NLD makes no slips, it can successfully complete a transfer of power, that is real power, within say a year. This would spare the people the need for a revolutionary uprising. When Suu Kyi pleads “We must not embarrass the losers” it raises my gall though I know she is strategising. Still, does she need to go that far in mollifying the delicate feelings of monsters?

People’s expectations

There are huge expectations about both livelihood and democracy. People will be a great deal less patient later than this moment’s enthusiasm may lead the NLD to imagine. A parallel with Lanka is too tempting to resist. Public impatience is turning to anger; rogues of the old regime are not merely being allowed to go scot-free, but permitted ample room to regroup; cabinet infighting is comic. Wijeyadasa and rambunctious Marapana, since turfed out, are like street-hawkers shielding a fat-cat moneybag who was allegedly their benefactor. It’s just three months since the cabinet was formed! What will it be like in three years? Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, fairly or unfairly, bears the brunt of criticism. Let me add a word for myself: I was ready to give the authorities time to “Do things properly and build strong prosecutorial cases”; but increasingly, those who were patient now chaff about being taken for a ride.

Because of the preceding 50 years of harsh military dictatorship the overriding expectation in Burma, at this moment, not only among the politicised classes but among the poor as well, has more to do with political expectations – that is democracy – and less an expectation of quick economic betterment. This priority will change after the new government is stably anchored and the constitution amended installing Sue Kyi in the presidency. After that, say from end 2016, Suu Kyi will face her Ranil moment! You may opine that fate has dealt her a stronger hand with a resounding electoral mandate, or that minus the military trump, she will be easier to checkmate – sorry about the bridge-chess crossed metaphor. Historians of the future will have a full analytical cup of comparison to drain.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    2

    Having a huge army even in times of peace in any country could lead to corruption and usurpation of power through a coup. Such potential dangers should be cut down by down sizing the strength of the military from time to time when there is peace.
    Sengodan. M

    • 2
      0

      Sengo,
      Howmany times did SL think the truce and peace talks with LTTE will bring peace to the country while the ltte was building arms under disguise? No, there should be no down sizing of the military for any reason until the Tamil diaspora and other terror supporters and separatists stop their anti-SL stance.

  • 4
    2

    “When Suu Kyi pleads, we must not embarrass the losers”, does she need to go that far in mollifying the delicate feelings of the monsters? “
    The same parallel mollification with 50%nepotism and 49% corruption and an added dose of 70% racism is present in SL too.

    • 3
      1

      Is eliminating the most brutal Tamil terrorist group racism??

  • 3
    3

    The ethnic identity “Rohingya” did not exist at the time of independence. The name does not appear anywhere in colonial history.

    The only time they feature is as indentured labour imported to Myanmar by the British. There were no Bangladesh at the time. These were Indians in their millions who were brought over.

    Now they have given themselves an identity and do not want to go back. Its only 22 km trek to a more suitable environment for their culture. But they do not want to go back because Burma with all its ills they complain of is still better for them.

    So things like “Genocide” do not apply. Genocide is a term normally used when the people are indigenous and in danger of disappearing. As with these Bangalideshis they are dime a dozen.

    • 4
      5

      Rohingiyas are exact like Sri lankan Tamils.

      Now, they want to have an identity there because India and Bangladesh are not that good for them.

      • 0
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        Jim Softy.

        You just swallowed the stupid dung of Vibhishana inadvertently!

        • 0
          1

          You wasting u r time with this stupid [Edited out]

    • 4
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      “Its only 22 km trek to a more suitable environment for their culture”

      And with that single line, Vibu, your customary rant goes from the normal, boring realm of idiotic to ill-informed comedy. You speak as if the British left Myanmar yesterday. Consulting the all-knowing Wikipedia, a 5-year old can see that this is not so (unless we’re living in 1948 and no one bothered to inform me). This is 67 years ago- two generations of human beings, who were separated from this “suitable environment” of what was East Pakistan. They are no longer welcome in Bangladesh (I’m sure your misspelling of that proper noun was intended to show your rustic, Sinhalized nature to us than illiteracy, although with your crowd, it is never quite clear), and have nothing there for them. Also, unlike the Tamils of Sri Lanka (the parallel which you were not so subtly attempting to draw.Bless your soul- if you were capable of stringing together a proper argument just as dexterously as you make astonishingly moronic statements, CT would be just that bit more interesting), weren’t asking for a separate state. They are not to blame for the actions of the mobs lorded over by the very embodiment of the Buddha, Ashin Wirathu (or is it Gnaanasaara? I forget which one is more “compassionate”. Are we measuring their piousness through their body count or the amount of bigoted filth they spew? Gnaane would win on the second, but Ashi would certainly have the edge if we use the former), who went on a Black July-like rampage against them. This is like blaming the woman for being raped.

      It’s curious. For an ethnic group that is apparently as “under siege” as we Sinhalese are (what with countless international conspiracies, minority plots and liberal schemes to destroy sinhala culture), one might expect us to understand the plight of such people. The fact that we don’t implies one of two things: we’re not at threat, and this entire “our sinhala identity/culture/country is being destroyed/usurped” is a lie to whip up hysteria to keep the ultra-conservative lunatic bloc in power, or we really are at threat and we’re all heartless a**holes. I leave you to decide which it is. I’m sure you will come to an entirely non-asinine conclusion.

      • 2
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        Dear KP,

        I got it very clearly, and though I am indebted to you for the above comments, I always enjoy Vibhishana’s customary rant goes off from the normal, enjoyable realm of idiotic to ill-informed comedy. I never enjoy a sadistic comedy, but for unintelligent nature of Vibhishana

      • 2
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        – weren’t asking for a separate state.

        It has far higher aims in view, namely to keep alive and propagate these precious ideals throughout Ceylon, Southern India and the Tamil Colonies, to promote the union and solidarity of Tamilakam, the Tamil Land. We should keep alive and propagate these ideals throughout Ceylon and promote the union and solidarity of what we have been proud to call Tamil Eelam… All this requires heavy outlay of money for which I trust the Tamil Community, and especially its wealthier members here and in the Federated Malay States, will contribute liberally.”

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-nationalist-turn-a-necessary-detour/

        • 2
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          Oh christ…

          I was talking about the Rohingya, not the Tamils.

  • 1
    2

    Not Burma recheck qualification of Sri Lankan Professors. More than 99% are fakes.

    • 2
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      I’m sure that Prof. David knows that the country is now called Myanmar. I haven’t done any checking, but I believe that “Myanmar” is a name given to the country by the nasty Generals.

      I believe that many who want to forget the Generals, and consider their power grab unconstitutional try to show it by defiantly using the name “Burma”.

      As I’ve already said, I haven’t bothered to check what each of the names implies. May I leave that to you, please, since I find these controversies not worth going in to?

    • 2
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      I do not agree with Kumar on many things including politics and engineering but I can assure you that he is a Professor with genuine qualifications.

      He obtained his BSc in Electrical Engineering with First Class Honours (no mean acheivement) from the Engineering Faculty, University of Ceylon (the only Engineering Faculty in Sri Lanka at that time). He was sent to UK to do his PhD, which he completed successfully to join the E-Fac as an assistant lecturer. He retired after working as a Prof of the University of Hong Kong.

      He is a very likable, friendly and down to earth chap. He was the son of a judge, and though a Tamil, speaks Sinhalese like a ‘native’.

  • 1
    1

    Kumar David want UNP-leadership to an open national security and more excess to political-economy for US and Indian hegemony powers by current regime back by Tamil Trotskyism type of political democracy.

    The left-wing Reactionaries of LSSP’s in that they want to be build that nature of new constitutional changes by advocated New Eealm regime in Island.

    The Tami1l reformist and Trotskyist of that left wing outfits urgently want to be created well established back ground for New Tamil Eleam regime under the leadership of NC-Wigenistram in North council.

    That is why David’s political mission and agitation demand more US access to Burma state power by delegated leadership to -Suu-Ki.
    This will assist to build Christian base political system of democracy in Burma by leadership Suu-Ki.
    There for the Result of that Burma will next US colonial power.

    US hegemonies and Trotskyist want that Burma will be Anti- China regime in Rangoon. David of leftwing Trotskyist has been undertaken such mission that on behalf US pivot Asian policy of expansionism.

  • 3
    1

    25% of seats reserved for the military – in other words, it is a “military democracy”.
    Our military has been allocated Rs 306 Billion in the 2016 budget – the highest so far – for a peacetime army.
    So, we too have a “military democracy” unique among nations.

    Why do peacetime expenses for the military increase rather than decrease?

    • 1
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      To be fair, we might have to invade the Maldives to uhm… “heroically rescue its citizens from the most brutal bloodthirsty government the world has ever seen”, where not one single civilian dies from a stray bullet :P

  • 1
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    [Edited out]

  • 0
    0

    David educational qualifications has nothing to do with his Trotskyist ideologist that his mindset is basically more closed in nature of Right-wing, line of politics in current context.

    Bunch of so-called academic careerist of the ‘left wing’ LSSPs and split of SLCP ‘left-wings’ are fundamentally that servants of right wing democracy back by UNP political pay role.
    Their have undertaken new mission of two objectives.
    1 Change current constitution in favored so-called devolution package
    to an open new avenue for Eealm state.
    2 Sri Lanka should become satellite state for USA, UK and Indian
    camp and by encouraging western orbit and its moribund civilization.
    The “Educated” David is mission more or less for regain Sri lanka by that new policies of UNP -Ranil W…CBK and MS leadership .

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