Archive for April 2007

Sonia Gandhi, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Quest for Democracy in Burma (Part: II)

April 25, 2007

The allegations against Sonia Gandhi on the issue of foreign origin become more frequent from different political groups, when she decided to campaign for some constituencies of short-lived 12th Loksabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) elections in 1998 and next year to contest herself for 13th Loksabha in 1999, after getting elected for Congress President on 14th March 1998. However the first strong protest against Sonia came from within the party’s senior leadership, after her becoming the congress President. When Senior Congress leaders like – Mr. Sharad Pawar, Mr. Tarique Anwar and Mr. P.A. Sangama left the Congress party and formed Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on 25th May 1999 to prevent Sonia becoming Prime Minister of the country on the issue of foreign origin. However later on NCP, which was formed to oppose Sonia Gandhi on the issue of foreign origin found irrelevant to oppose Sonia on this issue, and joined the Congress led coalition government at the centre formed after 14th Loksabha elections in 2004 and NCP leader Sharad Pawar also joined the central cabinet of Dr. Man Mohan Singh as a minister for agriculture. Moreover opposition to Sonia Gandhi was raised by her political opponents after many years of her taking Indian citizenship on 30th April 1983 and renouncement of her Italian citizenship on 27th April 1983 (10) like opposition to Daw Suu Kyi by tatmadaw and others, after her becoming potent individual political force in Burma’s democratic movement. Later on, another founder leader of the NCP, Mr. P.A. Sangama and former Lok Sabha speaker announced in May 2005 that, “Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin is no longer an issue after she refused to become Prime Minister.” (11)

Sonia Gandhi, who refused to become Prime Minister after 14th Lok Sabha election in May 2004 on the call of her “inner voice” like Gandhi’s refusal to contest for Congress Presidentship after 1924 Belgaon Congress session, could have easily become Prime Minister in June 1991, when P.V. Narasimha Rao, the initiator of India’s constructive engagement policy (Look East Policy) with Burma’s military junta become Prime Minister & congress leader; and congress demand for her leadership was very forceful after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. It was sincere sacrifice of state power from Sonia, which made her popular within the party and tallest among all congress politicians.

Like Sonia Gandhi, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been also facing similar opposition from military junta in Burma. And attack on her of foreign allegiance become more pertinacious after her first public appearance as a leader at Rangoon General Hospital on 24th August 1988 & first of her mass rallies at holy Shwedagon Pagoda on 26th of August 1988. (12)

And in the same pattern of malignancy against Sonia Gandhi, in a different historical setting, SPDC, earlier known as State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) become successful on 11 December 1991 in breaking NLD and to expel Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from the party with the help from U Aung Shwe. (13)

Furthermore, SLORC Secretary number one- Maj-Gen. Khin Nyunt made a major speech to government officials on the political situation and on the actions and status of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on 24th December 1991, making even her childhood stay at India as a part of foreign allegiance like political detractors of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and he says, that, “In 1960, when Daw Suu Kyi was only 15 years old, she went along with her mother Daw Khin Kyi and lived with her when she took up her duties as Ambassador to India. She went to England to pursue her studies in 1964. It is learnt that one Mr Gore Booth looked after her while she was in England. There was also news that Mr Gore Booth even adopted her….He [also] served as British Ambassador to Myanmar …from 1953 to 1956 and became very friendly with Daw Suu Kyi’s mother Daw Khin Kyi. Daw Suu Kyi went to live in the United States…in 1969 and worked as an employee of the United Nations. While working at the United Nations she got married to a British Subject Michael Aris at the Kensington Registration Office in London on 31-12-71. The elder son Alexander John Christopher Aris was born in Kensington, London, on 12-4-73 and younger son Dannian Kin Arundel Aris was born at Oxford, London , on 24-9-77, it is learnt. The Myanmar Embassy was not informed about the birth of the children. Birth certificates of the children were not sent or applied. These two children are not entitled to become citizens of Myanmar…according to Section 5(a) of the Union of Myanmar Citizenship Law of 1948 and because they are not in conformity with Chapter 2 of the Myanmar…Citizenship Law of 1982 which deals with Citizenship. As for Daw Suu Kyi, from the time she got to England to pursue studies, she never informed the Myanmar Embassy in London and lived on her own.” And it further goes on to her passport issue that, “Although Daw Suu Kyi obtained permission to hold Myanmar passport, she failed time and again to comply with duties and responsibilities to be abided by Myanmar citizens…. She failed to [renew her passport] during the period 17-5-80 to 26-5-81. She had nothing to do with Myanmar…since that date. One of Daw Suu Kyi’s dishonest efforts was the attempt to procure Myanmar…passports for her two sons. Though her two sons were born abroad [and neither reported nor registered] she dishonestly put the names of both her sons on her… passport…. Both her sons have no right to be the citizens of Myanmar …according to the Citizenship Law.” (14)

The official statement of Maj. Gen. Khin Nyunt in 1991 on Daw Suu Kyi reflects sad historical things for the history of modern Burma. Particularly, the statements was given by those General against Bogyoke’s grandsons, who had fought independence struggle of Burma, as a part of group of “thirty” under the leadership of Bogyoke Aung San.

Although, tatmadaw’s many positive roles can’t be denied in Modern history of Burma and even Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD would need in future democratic era, a well organized army to keep Burma’s prestige high and strong among nations of the world. However, it is an intellectual bankruptcy of the tatmadaw leadership to criticize inclusion of name of son by a mother in her passport as a dishonest? Whether is it a crime to say that, I’m a mother of my son in any civilization? Tatmadaw’s vision is missing one thing that, best of the laws and rules have evolved in human civilization to protect and establish – individual liberty, dignity, equality and fraternity. And, if any government takes to implement any rule, then it has to take that rule in totality. It is not that one accepts some provisions of 1948 and 1982 rules and rejects other things without including all groups view on new rules of law framing.

However the new rules and clarification recommended by the Plenary Session of the National Convention held at Nyaunghnapin Camp in Hmawby Township, Yangon Division, on 28th October 2006, under the Chairmanship of Chief Justice U Aung Toe of the National Convention Convening Work Committee related with the detailed basic principles for the Chapter “Citizenship, Fundamental Rights & Duties of Citizens” for drafting the State Constitution, forbids the sons of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to take citizenship of Burma in future and according to the new proposed rule number one: “All persons who have either one of the following requirements are citizens of the Union of Myanmar: (a) All persons born of parents both of whom are nationals of the Union of Myanmar. (b) Persons who are vested with citizenship according to the existing laws on the date this Constitution comes into force.” (15)

Sonia Gandhi’s love for Burma’s Democratic Movement and Daw Suu Kyi:

Sonia Gandhi’s first significant interaction with Burmese people got realized on 15th of December 1987, when she visited Rangoon with her husband and India’s then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with a fifteen member official delegation to Burma. The high level official delegation of Indian Prime Minister was accompanied by then India’s Minister for Foreign Affairs – Mr. Natwar Singh, Foreign Secretary – KPS Menon and illustrious information advisor to the Prime Minister – Mr. H Y Sharda Prasad. The Indian Prime Minister together with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi visited the holy Shwedagon Pagoda to pay respect to Lord Buddha’s relic and made donation of Kyat 250,000, and the tomb of India’s last Mughal Emperor and symbol of 1857 revolt, King Bahadur Shah Zafar, where he donated Kyat 200,000 and carpets to the Dargah. Rajiv Gandhi also presented Chairman U Ne Win with an original palm-leaf manuscript of Burmese General Maha Bandoola (hero of the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1826), which had been preserved in the Victoria Museum at New Delhi. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi also took keen interest in visiting National Museum of Burma and the Burma Gems Corporation. (16) However at that time, Daw Suu Kyi had not entered into the politics of Burma and Sonia Gandhi was not aware that soon after few months, She and her husband would come out openly for the support for the restoration of democratic movement in Burma led by the ‘New Gandhi’ of Burma after U Ottama – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

(Continued…)

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Endnotes:

10. NH Hingorani, House Guest: Can Sonia Gandhi Be An MP?, The Statesman (English Daily Newspaper), New Delhi Edition, November 6, 1999.

11. Foreign origin no longer an issue, says Sangma, The Hindu (English Daily), 19 May 2005, Delhi Edition, p.15.

12. Note No. 07, p.192, and Note No. 3.

13. NLD Expels Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Working People’s Daily, 16 December 1991, Published by the News & Periodicals Corporation, Ministry of Information, Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. Edited and printed at the Working People’s. Daily Press, 212, Theinbyu Street, Rangoon. Telegraphic address `PED’, Post Box No 43

14. Maj.-Gen. Khin Nyunt’s Speech, Working People’s Daily, 25 December 1991, Published by the News & Periodicals Corporation, Ministry of Information, Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. Edited and printed at the Working People’s. Daily Press, 212, Theinbyu Street, Rangoon. Telegraphic address `PED’, Post Box No 43

15. The State shall not discriminate against or in favour of any citizen based on race, birth, religion, official position, status, culture, sex and wealth, The New Light of Myanmar, 29 October 2006, Vol. XIV, No. 196, Yangon, p.8.

16. Indian Prime Minister’s Visit, Working People’s Daily, 16 December 1987, Published by the News & Periodicals Corporation, Ministry of Information, Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. Edited and printed at the Working People’s. Daily Press, 212, Theinbyu Street, Rangoon. Telegraphic address `PED’, Post Box No 43

(Continued….)

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Sonia Gandhi, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Quest for Democracy in Burma (Part: I)

April 22, 2007

On 16th of April 2007, the Supreme Court of India bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan sought opinion from the Central government ruled by India National Congress (INC) Party coalition and Election Commission on a petition filed by (Rashtriya Mukti Morcha) the political detractors of INC President, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi that, whether a person of foreign origin could be appointed to hold a public office or not? However, accusations & attacks on Sonia Gandhi (the wife of former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi) on the issue of foreign origin is not new like – Burma’s ruling military junta (tatmadaw) known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) allegations of foreign allegiance on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 noble laureate & leader of National League for Democracy party and winner of May 1990 election. The allegation against Sonia was first raised in March 1998, when she got elected as an INC President to save Congress from faltering, after seven years of her husband’s assassination at Seriperumbudur on 21st May 1991. Although, Congress spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi described it as “normal legal process” for the notices issued by the apex court to the Election Commission and the Centre in the matter and pointed out that it has neither made any observations nor passed any order. CPM politburo member, Mr. Sitaram Yechury said that even the Supreme Court had earlier held that as of now, any foreigner who has become an Indian citizen could hold a constitutional position. (1)

India’s much loved and adored popular Congress leader, Sonia Gandhi like Burma’s Daw Suu Kyi didn’t face any accusation of having foreign allegiance, when they were not in politics. Even, when Sonia married to Rajiv in 1968 and thereafter, seldom questions were asked, that an Italian Citizen is living in the Prime Minister house, where most of the important decisions related with the security of the nation took place. However despite some minor dissimilarity with Daw Suu Kyi of having Burmese origin and married to a British Scholar – Michael Aris, and Sonia Gandhi, as an Italian married to a celebrated Indian leader – Rajiv Gandhi has one strong similarity of facing repeated fascist allegations of foreign connections from their political opponents scared of losing state power. Although another painful difference exists that, Sonia Gandhi and her party is free to defend herself among people of India but Daw Suu Kyi is suffering under prolonged house arrest together with restrictions on NLD, even after repeated appeals from international community and UN Secretary General – Ban Ki-moon and earlier Mr. Kofi Annan to free her. (2)

Whether Sonia Gandhi and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi are Foreign Cohorts?

However, interestingly both ‘People’s Queen’ didn’t see socio-political democratic values in their respective nations as their political enemy perceives & propagates. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s suffering under prolonged house arrest has been alleged apart from foreign allegiance by military rulers as – “She is not a nationalist, but a liberal opposing the national cause, who thinks highly of the western democracy and who is a foreign cohort…Daw Suu Kyi at present is like a Cat that cannot lift the Elephant’s head. It further compares, Daw Suu Kyi’s condition with “Crows”, and it propagates that, “Naturally, crows are wicked. They have the habit of snatching. They usually caw loudly in the sky if one of them is captured. Likewise, some western powers and the destructive elements from inside and outside the nation are drumming up support for Daw Suu Kyi demanding for her release. Once the Burma Communist Party (BCP) was a threat to Myanmar. But now, Daw Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) pose the most dangerous threat to the nation.” (3) So, UN Secretary General’s – Ban Ki-moon & earlier Kofi Annan, leadership of EU nations, US, UK as well as India and those member countries of ASEAN and world community who demand for release of Daw Suu Kyi from house arrest are like “Crows” in the view of military junta in Burma.

Sonia Gandhi had earlier also refuted the said allegation that she pose a threat to national interest and security. As Sonia Gandhi herself refutes the charges of security threat as, “I was the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi when she was Prime Minister for sixteen years and wife of the Prime Minister for five years, how did I suddenly become a security threat. Further she strongly says that, “Jis Din Main Indiraji Ke Ghar ‘Bahu’ Ke Roop Me Aayi, Usi Din Main Bhartiya Bani, Baki Sab Technical Hai (The day I came into Indira Gandhi’s family as daughter-in-law, I became an Indian. Rest everything is technical.”(4) Sonia Gandhi taking inspiration from Gandhian principles of simplicity like – Suu Kyi accepting Gandhi as her political Guru, has formulated the Code of Austerity and Ethics for Congress party members in 2005, in which only the Governor and the Chief Minister should be entitled to red lights and siren on the vehicles. And the number of official vehicles with each Minister should be restricted to one and use of official vehicles should be restricted to the area of jurisdiction together with discontinuation of STD/ISD free phone facility on government exchequer at their residences.(5) Sonia Gandhi’s deep commitment towards India could be found when we see her priorities as – removing poverty, unemployment and solving the problems of the farmers together with ameliorations of Dalits, the backward classes, the minorities and the women of India.(6)

However different from the perception of military rulers in Burma, Daw Suu Kyi’s commitment to the nation, to her father – Bogyoke Aung San as inspiration besides Gandhi and Nehru, is reflected from many of her statements, work & visions. She states briefly dedicating her autobiographical work – “Freedom from Fear and other writings” to her father and states, “In honour of Bogyoke Aung San…When I honour my father, I honour all those who stand for political integrity in Burma.” (7) Daw Suu Kyi’s relations with western civilization are more related with the vision of India’s great nationalist leader – Jawaharlal Nehru’s internationalism. Which could be found in her acceptance message sent to the organizing committee after receiving “1993 Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding” in 1995, and she says, “Pandit Nehru’s contribution to international understanding go beyond the part he played on the world stage during his lifetime to narrow the gap between diverse culture and differing ideologies. His spirit contribute to reach out to people struggling to establish universal human values in a world increasingly preoccupied with material power. During my years of detention the words and works of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru were a constant source of inspiration and support. I count these two great Indians among my most revered guides, mentors and friends.” 8

Although, Daw Suu Kyi many times reposed her faith & inspiration on the socio-political values of two great Indian leaders apart from her inspiration of – Bogyoke Aung San, the role model’s of Eastern civilization. However, nations of Asia including India are engaged in constructive engagement with military junta, skirting the issue of her release and national reconciliation. It is more painful to see that, Government of India, which awarded the 1993 Jawaharlal Nehru Award For International Understanding to Suu Kyi, doesn’t mentions a word about the award and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Ministry of External Affairs website details on bilateral relations with Burma. Probably nations of Asia are scared of being branded as “Crow” by military junta of Burma. However, recent stand taken by Malaysian Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary, Mr. Ahmad Shabery Cheek, that, “Malaysia and other ASEAN members had made a stand not to defend Myanmar, if the country’s issue was raised at any international conference” (9) is a welcome step for new resurgent Asia.

(Continued…)

Endnotes:

1. SC lens on quota & Sonia – Court: Can Foreigner Hold Public Office, The Times of India, (English Daily) 17 April 2007, Front Page News, Patna Edition, Bihar, India.

2. Ban Ki-moon calls on Myanmar to release all political prisoners, UN News Service, New York, 14 January 2007.

3. Maung Cetana , She who turned alien or danger to the nation, The New Light of Myanmar, 05 July 2006.

4. Rajshekhar, From Annie Besant to Sonia Gandhi: the changing place of women of foreign origin in Indian Politics, Irra-Ganga, Vol.1, No.2 &3, June-July 2003, Vikaspuri, New Delhi, p.174.

5. Ministers, MLAs flouting Sonia’s directive on ethics, The Hindu (English Daily), 19 October 2005, Delhi Edition, p.4.

6. Removing poverty, unemployment, major concerns: Sonia, The Hindu (English Daily), 13 February 2005, Delhi Edition, p.8.

7. Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear and other writings, Penguin Books India (P) Ltd., New Delhi, 1995, she has dedicated the book to her father.

8. Jawaharlal Nehru Award Ceremony, Thursday, 16 November 1995, From the web site of Burma Library: accessed on 19 April 2007.

9. ASEAN Will Not Defend Myanmar at International Fora – Ahmad Shabery, Bernama New Agency, Kualalumpur, Malaysia, 20 April 2007.

(Continued…)

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Closure of Mizzima News Office at New Delhi

April 16, 2007

Burma Review strongly condemns the sealing of premises of Mizzima News office today by New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) on the pretext of running the news organization commercially in a residential area. Since its establishment, Mizzima News under the vibrant editorship of Mr. Soe Myint has worked fearlessly to bring other side of truth about Burma from Indian soil. If Delhi Administration had any problem related with the issues of defining commercial and residential nature of the news organization premises, then they should have first served legal notices before sealing the office. The sudden closure of Mizzima News office by Delhi Administration forbids Burma loving people in India to remain updated about military junta’s role in suppressing restoration of democracy in Burma. Mizzima News, a Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) partner news organization and interim member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), is few available independent news sources on Burma in India.

Burma Review and democracy loving people of India expresses its solidarity with Soe Myint and all of Mizzima Staffs in this hour of pain. And appeals to Delhi Administration to immediately reopen the office of Mizzima News and desist from taking any further action on the organization.

Burma Review hopes that Delhi Administration would soon allow Mizzima team to function independently to express their views on Burma. Probably Delhi Chief Minister and seasoned Indian National Congress party leader – Mrs. Sheila Dikshit would have not forgotten the official stand of Congress party on the issue of Burma’s struggle for restoration of democracy.

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