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

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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