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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2429

The Draft Constitution of Burma's Military Rulers

By Ahmedur Rahman Farooq

Once upon a time, a lion, a leopard and a jackal entered into an alliance to go on the hunt together. They went out around the forests and hunted a deer, a goat and a hen. At the end of the day, they sat together to share the preys. The lion asked the leopard to distribute the preys into three shares with fair justice. The leopard said, it would be justifiable to put the deer for the lion, the goat for himself and the hen for the jackal. But before, he could finish his verdict, the lion jumped upon the leopard with a big roar and torn his body into pieces. The jackal was standing near by trembling in fear. Then the lion asked the jackal to distribute and then the jackal said, it would be the best if you take the hen for your breakfast, the goat for your lunch and the deer for your dinner. Then the lion said to the jackal with a smile, "You are really wise. Where did you learn such a nice distribution with fair justice". The jackal retorted, "I have learned it from your paws reddened with the bloods of the leopard".

Such is the case in the pro-military constitution which has been drafted by a military appointed forum and now which is set for approval during the May plebiscite to be followed by elections in 2010. The only difference is that the jackal was deprived of his share and here those who have drafted the constitution enjoy all types of modern amenities and gracious life styles, taking part in keeping the military machinery of repression alive decades after decades. The ruling generals provide them unlimited opportunity to let them pass their life in celestial delight while these people pave all the ways for the army to perpetuate their gun control, pushing the common people to destitution and widespread poverty accompanied by the destruction of the entire political system and the administration of justice.

However, on February 19.2008, Burma's military government announced that work had been completed on writing the draft of the proposed new constitution. The state radio and television said the 54-member Constitution Drafting Commission finished the draft after working on it for more than two months. Burma’s Chief Justice and Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission, Aung Toe, announced the charter's completion on state radio and television news broadcasts. Aung Toe said the draft was drawn up with the objective of ensuring a leading role in politics for the military. The guidelines for a new constitution were adopted by a stage-managed farcical National Convention last year after 14 years of on-and-off meetings, where the military hand-picked delegates have attended.

In fact, the draft constitution contains all the provisions to glorify the militarism in the governance in the guise of so-called "disciplined democracy". It is a blue-print for the army to legitimize its grip on power for indefinite period and where the head of the army will be the most powerful person in the country, with the ability to appoint key cabinet figures and suspend the constitution in the event of an emergency that he defines. It also bars Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from running in election whose party NLD won more than 80 percent of the vote in the general elections in 1990, a total of 392 out of the 485 seats contested in the 492-member assembly. And most importantly, the military rulers did not allow any input from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or her party NLD as well as other democratic and ethnic groups while drafting the state constitution.

Burma has been in a political deadlock since the military refused to recognize the election results of 1990 and in order to facilitate a national reconciliation on the democratic reforms, the UN Chief has appointed Ibrahim Gambari as an special envoy to Burma, after the military rulers violently quashed peaceful protests last September 2007 which was led by the revered monks. But during the recent visit of the UN envoy to Burma, it became further clear that the military rulers will not accept any role of the United Nations in determining the course of the country’s political transition to what the ruling generals call "seven-point road map to democracy".

Ibrahim Gambari, the Nigerian diplomat, who has recently completed his third visit to Burma, proposed a more inclusive process of political change in the country and offered to send monitors to ensure that the outcome of the junta’s planned referendum on the draft constitution is accepted as legitimate. The junta said "no" to both suggestions.

Gambari met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi twice during his five-day trip, but was denied a meeting with the junta’s supreme leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe. Instead, he met with the members of the regime’s “Spokes Authoritative Team,” consisting of Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, Foreign Minister Nyan Win and Culture Minister Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint.

During the meeting with the UN Envoy Ibrahim Gambari, junta's Information Minister Kyaw Hsan gave a clear message that the junta does not appreciate international interference in its affairs. He accused the UN of being biased against the regime. The state-run mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar, published the full text of Kyaw Hsan’s indignant reaction to Gambari’s role in releasing a statement from Aung San Suu Kyi following his last visit. “Sadly, you went beyond your mandate,” said the information minister in his carefully worded reproach. “Some even believe that you prepared the statement in advance and released it after coordinating with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” he added.

Kyaw Hsan went on to accuse the UN envoy of trying to “frame a pattern desired by western countries.” He also turned down a request by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon that the regime amend the draft constitution to "ensure inclusiveness". In a letter dated February 19.2008 to Burma's military supremo Senior General Than Shwe, the UN secretary general called for an amendment to the current draft constitution that would drop a clause excluding all Burmese nationals married to foreigners from running for election - paving the way for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to contest the planned 2010 polls. He urged the UN envoy to support the junta's "seven step" road map and stop pursuing alternatives suggested by western democracies. "We shall not accept any attempt to hinder or reverse the process of the seven-step Road Map. However, we will heartily welcome the positive suggestions of the UN to help implement the seven-step Road Map," Kyaw Hsan said. Asked by Gambari to consider releasing political prisoners—estimated by the UN and human rights groups to total more than 1,100—Kyaw Hsan said Burma has no political prisoners and that Suu Kyi was detained because she tried to disrupt the country's stability.

Similar arrogant remarks came from Thaung Nyunt, a member of the commission responsible for holding the referendum when Gambari met with him after meeting with Kyaw Hsan's team and offered UN technical assistance and help with facilitating observers at the planned referendum. Rejecting the offer of Gambari for international monitoring of the forthcoming referendum in May, Thaung Nyung said, "Holding the referendum on the constitution is within the country's sovereignty and for internal affairs in the past, we have never had observers from outside." He also said, "We have enough experience, but we take note of your offer."

Nevertheless, the junta's rejections of Gambari's suggestions caused a death blow to the mission of the UN envoy. It gave clear message that the ruling generals will do everything in their own way and they are not at all interested in listening to what the international community says. The junta’s snub of Gambari made it further clear that the door for national reconciliation is no more open and that there can be no more development in the mission and mandate of the UN envoy.

However, the announcement of referendum of the military rulers is, in fact, a declaration of war against the people of Burma. It will further aggravate the country's political, economic and social crisis. Now, it is time for all the democratic forces of Burma to take pragmatic actions to foil the referendum bid of the military rulers on this pro-military draft constitution and to turn it into a flashpoint for unprecedented anti-government protests both at home and abroad.#

Ahmedur Rahman Farooq, Chairman, Rohingya Human Rights Council (RHRC).

- Asian Tribune -

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